Host of Angels from
The Nativity by Gerard David-
Flemish, active by about 1484, died 1523.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Words: Jefferson Hascall, 1860
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury, 1862
arr. Ruth Randle, 2014
in honor of Merv Rowley's 94th birthday!
Merv is our mentor, who established this website several
and drew others into this versatile tuning we call
Many of you may
know this song as performed by The Stanley Brothers,
included in the soundtrack of the movie Oh Brother,
Where Art Thou, or perhaps The Monkees, or Johnny
Cash, but the song is much older than that.
Jefferson Hascall as a poem, and originally titled "My
Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast”, Angel Band was put
to music and published first in 1860 by J. W. Dadmun in
his tunebook The Melodeon, but was later attached
to its familiar melody we know today by William
Batchelder Bradbury, and published in 1862 in his
Bradbury's Golden Shower of S.S. Melodies.
Bradbury's tune was originally called The Land of
It has its
origins in a form of music called "shape note singing",
started in the 1800's, as a way to teach people who did
not know how to read music, to sing beautiful hymns and
anthems in 4 part harmony. This form developed first as
a series of just 4 shapes, and was called the fasola
system, often known as Sacred Harp. The notes
were called fa, sol, la, and mi. This means that each
shape had more than one note assigned to it. Later on,
William Walker developed a 7-shape system, assigning a
different shape to the 7 notes of a scale. He published
Angel Band in his Christian Harmony book in 1866.
This form of
music is called "Solfege", also known as do, re, mi, fa,
sol, la and ti - think "Sound of Music" - "Do, a
deer, a female deer..." etc. The exact key is not
important, the "leader" would establish a key which
(hopefully) would accommodate most of the singing voices
present. The singers sat according to their parts -
soprano, alto, tenor, bass - in a large square facing
one other. They began by singing the song in "solfege",
to establish the melody, and would then sing all the
verses. The sound was often quite awesome! Shape Note
Singings are still held today, predominantly in the
South, frequently followed by a huge potluck meal called
"Dinner on the Ground"..
The links below
will tell you a lot more about shape note singing;
please check them out.
Your 1-3-5 Team
Shape Note Singing
They sing it first with the fa so la's, and then
when the lyrics start showing on the screen, they sing
the words, in 4 part harmony - very powerful!
This is one of the nicest sounding groups I found.
Johnny Cash version: