Prancing through De Camptown Races

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Today I continue my series on 19th century American folk songs, taken from Popular Long of Nineteenth-Century America complete with original sheet music.

Today’s song is Gwine to Run all Night 

or

De Camptown Races

One of the interesting things about these songs, is the piano settings given for them. Most people today from a hymnody background would be used to accompaniment in 4-part chords that gave the parts. This accompaniment doesn’t carry the melody, yet it has a chordal structure. The score also has multiple lines for each of the parts to sing — like choral music, and not like a hymnal.

In most recordings I have heard of De Camptown Races, the song is sung at an almost breakneck speed. But the original sheet music has it listed at a moderato tempo. If you play it at a moderato, and use the accompaniment, with its syncopated rhythms, you get a much sweeter, prancing sort of song.

The difference is something that is hard to describe. Here is the song as played on our piano at home (much like it would have been played on pianos across the country when it first came out).

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