And Where Is That Band | Francis Scott Key: Songs from the Author of the Star Spangled Banner

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Francis Scott Key: Songs from the Author of the Star Spangled Banner

by And Where Is That Band

Quite the popular 19th Century songwriter, Key is back with a mix of old and new musical settings of his poems. Hear the heart of the man who wrote our national anthem in his stories, love songs, humor and hymns.
Genre: Spiritual: Country Gospel
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  Song Share Time Download
1. To Mary
2:55 $0.99
2. Vesper Hymn
2:03 $0.99
3. Lord, With Glowing Heart
3:25 $0.99
4. Petition for a Habeas Corpus
2:49 $0.99
5. Life
5:01 $0.99
6. When the Warrior Returns
3:14 $0.99
7. Efficacy of Prayer
2:00 $0.99
8. Bear Story
6:22 $0.99
9. Bear Song
3:44 $0.99
10. Our Father
3:43 $0.99
11. To My Cousin Mary
3:10 $0.99
12. Before the Lord We Bow
5:12 $0.99
13. On Visiting the Pennsylvania Hospital
8:25 $0.99
14. Home
4:13 $0.99
15. Sunday School Celebration
3:16 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Very Cool - "Honestly, I think what you've done is very cool. I've listened through once, and yes of course it's a very different approach to mine, but it's really rather refreshing. One hears lyrics very differently according to how they're presented, and, when you think of it, FSK was setting his 2 hymns and 2 patriotic songs into HIS prevailing musical styles, so you're following the spirit of his footsteps.

Thanks for sharing, truly." - David Hildebrand, Ph.D., The Colonial Music Institute

"An inspiring experience. Uplifting and reassuring of America's grace, a country of spiritual value after all." - Pablo Baum, Ph.D., Living Historyist

My apologies to those who search albums by genre - there weren't enough selections to describe this eclectic collection.
When I started reading Francis Scott Key poetry, I delighted in finding a shared faith and quirky sense of humor. From there it didn’t take long to envision performing the poems. I’ve been continually surprised ever since to find that I’m turning yet another recited poem into a song. I don’t really know how many of Key’s poems he intended as song lyrics, or what tune he may have been humming as he wrote. At first I wanted all the tunes to be from the correct time for the poem so that there was at least a chance of the song sounding like Key intended it. But “Petition for a Habeas Corpus” put an end to that, and I’ve since tried instead to find honest tunes and music, old or new, that suit the poem. If Key had a tune in mind with pen in hand, it was a song popular in his day. Where I’ve chosen a newer style or genre, imagine with me what Francis Scott Key might write if he lived today.

The lyrics of these songs are taken from "Poems of the Late Francis Scott Key, Author of 'the Star Spangled Banner'". That is the book containing Key's peotry published in 1857, 14 years after his death. In the preface of that book, Henry Johns wrote:

"THE poetry which is now given to the public has long been treasured amid the circle of private friends who knew and loved the late Francis Scott Key. A more gifted intellect I have never met with, and hence I have entertained the opinion that the effusions of a mind so pure and beautiful should go forth and gratify the general reader. After several years of respectful solicitation to those possessing the manuscript, permission to publish it has been obtained.

"Throughout the whole of these brief but touching compositions, the deep-toned piety, social disposition, and chastened cheerfulness of our lamented friend are constantly apparent. If anything need be said in the form of a motive for giving this volume to the public, it must be found in a deep and cherished respect for its author, and the settled conviction that his poems cannot fail to gratify the lover of the pure and beautiful, in every land. Real poetry is rare amid the deformities of a blighted world. When it appears, no arithmetic can tell its value. It ought not to be locked up in the closet of private friendship, for it belongs to "man.""

Family legend says that when young Francis wrote of his love to Mary Tayloe Lloyd, she let him know that she had shredded his sonnets and used the strips of paper to curl her hair. I think that the next poem Key sent her was “To Mary”, first because it survived and second because it groans with unrequited love. In 1817, now married to Mary and on his way to 11 children with her, Key wrote the hymn that is his best known today. In “Lord, With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Key recalls the same imagery used in “To Mary”, this time describing God as the lover of our souls and our tendency to be cold in returning that love. We don’t know what music, if any, Key had in mind for his poem. The earliest pairing I’ve found is the haunting “Vesper Hymn”, while my favorite of the many alternate tunes is “Hyfrydol”. But did wedded bliss and years of fame as wife to “The Star Spangled Banner”’s author change Mary’s valuation of Frank’s poetry? Doubtful. In the collection of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is an unfinished quilt by Mary Key. Dated three years before his death, the top is still backed by strips of Key’s letters and poems, written lovingly to his wife, but only as it seams unintentionally preserved by her.

Francis Scott Key never wrote music. He wrote contrafactum, or new words for existing music. “Petition For a Habeas Corpus” is the opposite of contrafactum, it is old words set to a newer style of music. It’s not the only un-contrafactum in this collection, but it is the starkest.

“Life” was a popular song in hymnals and church camp song books in the 1800’s, and then it just disappears. The added chorus is paraphrased from Psalm 118:22 and Matthew7:24.

I love “When the Warrior Returns”, and it’s an honor every time I get to sing it for a veteran. To danger they rushed, my rights to secure – it is both a patriotic and Christian theme. Here is another example of Key recycling his poetry. I believe he had this song on his mind when he wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” 9 years later. The first three verses use an arrangement from around 1800, so this is likely what our nation’s anthem sounded like when it was written. The fourth verse, which is the fourth verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, uses a choir arrangement from 1861 by the same composer who wrote “Jesus Loves Me”. This arrangement endured through the Civil War, but by that time other arrangements with the now familiar arpeggiated “O!-o-say” could also be found.

I hold that “Efficacy of Prayer” is perhaps the only great poem written by Francis Scott Key. When I perform it live, it never fails to connect with someone in the audience. The story is familiar to many of us. We cry “Get me out of here!” or “Make the world go away!”, but God’s promise is “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!”

Doctor William Burke wrote in his 1851 book “The Mineral Springs of Virginia: with Remarks on Their Use, Diseases to Which They Are Applicable, and in Which They are Contra-indicated, accompanied by A Map of Routes and Distances”, the following introduction to the chapter “Red Sulphur Bear”:

The following composition appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger for November 1850. It is from the pen of the late Francis S. Key, who, in the summer of 1838, was a visitor at the Red Sulphur when the incident on which it is founded occurred.” “It really was a most exciting and effecting scene, and one not to be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
A few days subsequent to the occurrence, the band had a concert, and this recitative and song, furnished by Mr. K., formed a part of the entertainment. It was recited and sung with admirable intonation and expression, by Benjamin Judah, who has frequently since repeated it with just applause.

My family doesn’t like the “Bear Story” because the bear died. And they ate him. I think it and the song are a fascinating look into Key’s mind and the thinking of his time. Together they are a grand work to compose in just a few days time. Key was obviously sympathetic to the bear and the overall tone is sad, but why does he then throw in a few jokes? Could they have been considered out of place in the 1830’s if Mr. Judah saw fit to continue performing the work? For more of the “Bear Story” look up the unabridged version. Themes: Don’t feed the bears; and when the music calls to you, don’t be a brute.

“Just As I Am”, or “Woodworth”, is another tune by the composer of “Jesus Loves Me”, William Batchelder Bradbury. Key’s “Art Thou My Father!” can be found in a Universalist songbook from 1842, but with no music or suggested tune. But as I pondered Key’s poem, Bradbury’s melody came to mind. These are only half the verses, and the other 5 are worth looking up.

I’ve always thought “To My Cousin Mary” sounds like Dr. Seuss, had Mr. Geisel ever written on the subjects of tobacco use and corporal punishment. The fact that Key wrote a poem introducing a sonnet instead of a simple thank you note speaks well of times past, before social media. It’s a fun song if you can accept that people just thought differently about things back then.

“Before the Lord We Bow” is the other Key poem still to be found in hymnals, along with “Lord, With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”. I like the tune associated with it today, “Darwall’s 148th”, and thought it a good candidate for the current practice of giving old hymns a modern feel and adding a chorus and bridge. The bridge lyrics are an attempt to make feudal lordship relevant to today’s free Americans. For more on why it’s a Fourth of July hymn look up the other verses.

Blues as we know it wasn’t around in Key’s day, but he grew up with its roots all around him. “On Visiting the Pennsylvania Hospital” as a blues tune is my fanciful notion that Key stopped by his Terra Rubra plantation on the way home from Philadelphia and took his latest poem out to the slaves’ and freedmen’s quarters. There a musical jam session was underway, and the new poem furnished the lyrics. Perhaps what matters most to me about this spooky poem is that Key, always described by his peers as a pious man, has the humility to say that, if mental illness is a judgment from Heaven, he is as deserving of that judgment as any of the hospital’s patients he has seen. Francis Scott Key, it appears, did not think over highly of himself by comparing himself with his neighbor, but rather remained humble by comparing himself with his Creator.

“Home” and “When the Warrior Returns” are the only two songs here that I believe I know the tunes Key had in mind when he wrote his words. There just aren’t many options out there for the rhythm schemes used. And like “the land of the free, and the home of the brave”, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home” is still sung today. If the number of poems he wrote on the subject is a reliable indication, Key thought a lot about the promise of Heaven.

Key wrote songs for back to back Fourth of July celebrations in 1832 and 1833. He was very well known at that time as the author of a popular national (patriotic) song, so I imagine he was approached for a sequel. I think the pair of hymns illustrates how Key used his unwanted fame as the author of “The Star Spangle Banner” to direct peoples’ attention to higher causes and concerns. He also did this through his championing of social and religious causes, and many of the organizations he supported are still around today. “Sunday School Celebration” was almost certainly related to Key’s support of The Mississippi Valley Enterprise, an undertaking of The American Sunday School Union (look up The enterprise had a goal of starting a Sunday School in every town between the Allegheny and Rocky mountains. It is credited today with greatly contributing to the prevalence of the Christian faith in this part of the country. I think these words are Key’s answer to the question asked by his second-generation American peers: We are free, now what shall we do with this freedom?

"Shed around thee the light of salvation and never be darkness in thee, thou fair land of the free!"
Performed by Ruben Bolton, Jimmy Haithcoat, Christian Cepel, Corrie Bolton, Tish Dwiggins, Lane Phillips, David Curry, Mike Rose,Milkweed the Budgie, Kyle and Jessica Willenburg; Jisun Kim; Charlie, Jaimee, Asher, and Lienna Marshman; Luke, Augustine, and Elliot Stockdale; Tony Farinella; Dale Alspaw; Adam, Isabella, and Karis Snell; Eric Prieto; Kendra and LaJoyce Cage; Sherry Lee; Arthur de Vries; David and Sarah Cranston; Emily Levsen; and Warren M. Hollrah.
I enjoy studying and sharing Francis Scott Key through his poems, but it is in his prose that I’ve found the best, and perhaps the most poetic, description of his central belief and thinking:

May 11, 1815

John Randolph,

May you soon, my friend, experience the most delightful of all sensations, that springs from a well grounded hope of reconciliation with God! You are in the right track. [God grant it may be so!] God is leading you. Your sentiments show the divinity that stirs within you. That we have ruined ourselves - that an everlasting life is before us - that we are about (how soon we know not) to enter upon it, under the sentence of Almighty condemnation - and that we can do nothing to save ourselves from this misery; these convictions are the genuine work of the Spirit; other foundation can no man lay! They lead us to a Saviour who gives us all we want - pardon, peace, and holiness. They do not bid us first to become righteous, and then come to him; but they bring us to him as we are - as sinners to be pardoned for our sins, and cleansed from all our iniquities. This is the true doctrine of our Church, and the plain meaning of the Gospel”.

God bless,
Truly yours

Frank Key



to write a review

Juanita Heider

A wonderful history lesson; and from a Godly perspective!
What a gift and an incredible undertaking to be able to set Francis Scott Key's poetry to music. The music is a wonderful mix of old and new genre. I gained so much insight and history from your comments about each song.
And closing with Key's letter to John Randolf brings purpose and meaning to all! May God bless this project for the purpose of teaching others important history and most importantly the spreading the Gospel message. Excellent job Ruben (and friends)!