Baritone Nathan Gunn returns to Carnegie Hall on April 22—joined by his wife, pianist Julie Gunn, and the Pacifica Quartet—for a program of songs that include six by iconic American composer Charles Ives. Here, we look at and listen to one of those songs, "General Booth Enters Into Heaven."
Over the course of his life, Charles Ives—successful insurance man by day and prolific maverick composer by night—composed more than 150 songs in an extraordinary variety of styles about everything that caught his fancy. Between 1919 and 1922, he decided to publish them as 114 Songs, a virtual autobiography of his life in notes and verse (since he also wrote many of the lyrics, including
those for five of the songs on the program).
Copyright problems prevented Ives from including his greatest song, "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven," in the 114 Songs. Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army, and his death in 1912 inspired this epic poem by Vachel Lindsay, the "Prairie Troubadour." In his 1914 song, Ives exploits the poem's many specific musical cues with imitations of drums, banjos, and trumpet calls as the General leads his unsavory crew of drunks, beggars, and sinners into paradise. The Salvation Army hymn "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" is quoted as a refrain throughout the poem, but Ives chose another hymn as his underlying melody, "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood." His harmonic experiments reached full flower here in a big, multi-sectional treatment that combines grandeur, comedy, and tenderness.
"General William Booth Enters Into Heaven"
Nathan Gunn, Baritone | Kevin Murphy, Piano
Related: April 22, Nathan Gunn | Julie Gunn | Pacifica Quartet