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The night of Tuesday, July 24, 1979, shook not only the small mining community of Appin but the entire Illawarra, with the region’s families dependent on their men going underground day after day (Cox 2009). This song uses words from a poem by Sid Wright, and music written and arranged by Sarah De Jong. This arrangement, for the Illawarra Union Singers, has been transcribed with a couple of tweaks to the bass line, and guitar chords added, by Doug McPherson.
All parts: These tracks below use combinations of instruments representing the four vocal parts. It may be useful to learn your part and then sing it with the accompaniment of these instrumental parts, to test how well you have learnt the part. Of these two tracks, the string arrangement may be more in keeping with the spirit of the song.
This seminal song was written by Florence Reece in 1931, in Harlan County, Kentucky. These 2 arrangements for a mixed voice choir, the Illawarra Union Singers, by Doug McPherson.
“In 1931, the miners and the mine owners of that region were locked in a bitter and violent struggle (called the Harlan County War). In an attempt to intimidate the Reece family, Sheriff J. H. Blair and his men (hired by the mining company) illegally entered their family home in search of Sam Reece. Sam had been warned in advance and escaped, but Florence and their children were terrorized in his place. That night, after the men had gone, Florence wrote the lyrics to “Which Side Are You On?” on a calendar that hung in the kitchen of her home.” Wikipedia
Many different performances of this song can be found. These arrangements are based on a recording made by Florence Reece later in life, recorded live in a broadcast studio, and later released on the album, “Coal Mining Women”. The 2 arrangements presented here use Florence’s words and mostly her melody line, but open with the chorus, and repeat the chorus throughout. Neither the sheet music nor the practice tracks reflect the rhythm changes needed for the words in different verses, particularly in verses 5 and 6. The arrangements are further informed by the Almanac Singers rendition of the song in 1941. Neither the sheet music nor the practice tracks reflect the rhythm changes needed for the words in different verses, particularly in verses 5 and 6.
Harmonically, this arrangement is notated in Dm, but the melody is essentially pentatonic, and could also be considered to be in the (modern) Dorian mode of the C scale; the 6th note and 3rd notes are omitted in the melody.
This arrangement is for Melody, (Soprano and/or Tenor), Alto, Tenor and Bass. The chorus is in unison, except for a tenor harmony. In the verses, the Melody and Tenor lines are in unison, with a harmony part written for Alto voice, and a Bass line.
The melody and bass tracks are the same as in arrangement 1. The alto track is new, and the tenor track dispenses with harmony in the verse and reverts to the melody. The target voice uses a piano in each track, except the Alto which uses an oboe sound. The All Parts track is an experiment, and uses the sounds of a wind quartet: flute, oboe, clarinet and basoon.
The only difference between versions 2.1 and 3, are the tenor line in the chorus and chords in the chorus, bars 3 and 7. The practice tracks use the piano in the target voice. The all parts track uses a wind quartet.
Louis Killen writes, “At the height of the miners’ union struggles of the 1880’s and ’90’s, labourers were brought in from other areas to act as strikebreakers. Ballads of the time describe how the colliers hunted the strikebreakers “like hares upon the moor O.””
Again, this is arranged in 2 parts, the melody to be sung by altos and basses, and the upper harmony to be sung by sopranos and tenors. The arrangement is written out in full, verse by verse. The last note of the upper harmony, and its underlying chord, differ from version 2.