program notes by composition > S > Spangled Heavens

Spangled Heavens

Donald Grantham

Spangled Heavens is a three-movement piece based on shape-note vocal music. Shape notes are a nineteenth-century music notation system designed to facilitate congregational singing. Depicting note heads as a small number of differentiated shapes was intended to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.

Holy Manna features three contrasting presentations of the tune. The first appearance is in F major, the second Ab major, and the third is bi-tonal, with F prevailing.

Restoration begins with a freely-composed melody that soon yields to the shape note tune. It concludes with the freely-composed melody, in its original and a transposed version, used as a passacaglia accompaniment for the shape note melody.

Sweet Canaan : The third movement employs two contrasting but complementary songs: “Sweet Canaan” and “Saints Bound for Heaven.” The tunes alternate, with a modulation upward at each new occurrence, and the movement ends with a combination of the two.

Donald Grantham (b.1947) is an American composer and music educator. He received music degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Southern California. He teaches music composition at the University of Texas.

Last updated on May 4, 2015 by Palatine Concert Band