Set to a poem written by American scholar Katharine Lee Bates in 1893, America The Beautiful has a profound history. Joined together with the Francis Ward hymn tune, Materna, America The Beautiful began a long rise in public opinion, and in similar fashion to another patriotic hymn, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, America The Beautiful was considered on several occasions to be a candidate for our national hymnsong.
While venturing cross country Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write this staple of American patriotic music. For a wonderful overview of Mrs. Bates and America The Beautiful I highly recommend visiting The Library Of Congress ' page on the topic. The story goes that while standing atop Pike's Peak she was inspired by the raw natural beauty so much that she penned the lyrics having it published for the first time in 1895.
"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."
Over the years that followed the song was apparently sung to the tune of various traditional tunes including Auld Lang Syne . Eventually the song was put to the music of the popular hymnsong Materna.
You can view the full score of the song and listen to it using the Sibelius Scorch viewer below (requires a plugin from the Sibelius web site). You can also download individual parts in PDF or Sibelius format using the links farther down on the page.
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Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea. Oh beautiful, for pilgrims' feet Whose stern, impassioned stress A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw; Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
Oh beautiful, for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, 'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!
Oh beautiful, for patriot dream That sees beyond the years, Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
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