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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

The Blantyre Explosion: A Song

Blantyre Explosion Newspaper Clip

This song commemorates a coal mining disaster, in the Scottish town of Blantyre, in the vicinity of Glasgow in 1877. The explosion was a firedamp, or methane, explosion.

It beggars belief that this initial disaster, killing 207 men and boys, some as young as 11, was followed by others, in 1878 and 1879. Equally unthinkable by today’s standards was the eviction of a number of widows of the killed miners in the months following the disaster (Sim 2017). Many of the workers and their families were Irish emigrants, fleeing the poverty and deprivation of the potato famine. The mine continued operating until 1957.

The exact provenance of the song is unclear. John Raven writes that the song was collected by A. L. Lloyd, the noted folklorist, the text first appearing in LLoyd’s 1951 book “Coaldust Ballads”.  The earliest recording I can find is by Ewan MacColl, but sounds somewhat dated. The next earliest recording I have found is by Christy Moore.  Scroll down to find a YouTube clip of a a live rendition of his performance of the song, and a rendition by Luke Kelly. Other recordings of the song are too numerous to list, with slightly varying lyrics and arrangements. One common distinctive feature is the modulation from a minor key to its tonic major in sections of the song; in my arrangement, from Am to A major.

Notes on My Arrangement

This arrangement, for a small mixed choir,  has male voices singing most of the 1st verse, matching the narrative of the song. This is mostly 2 part harmony, with the exception of the 5th line, bars 22 to 26.
The last line of the 1st verse is given to female voices, and then the male voices are reintroduced, 1st with the tenor and then with the bass. From this point on, the melody is primarily alternated between the soprano and alto parts.

Sheet Music .pdf
Sheet Music .pdf (Cropped)
Scroll down to view the sheet music, on the page in .jpg format.

Practice Tracks

These are all best listened to in conjunction with the sheet music. Firstly, here are practice tracks presented in SATB order. However, note that the female voices don’t come in until the end of the 1st verse.  In all tracks the “target voice” is played by the piano, and is significantly louder. To find out how to download practice tracks from this site, scroll down, or click here.

Soprano, Entry at 48 Seconds, Bar 37

 

Alto, Entry at 48 Seconds, Bar 37

 

Tenor 1
This is primarily a harmony line, with the exception of bars 2-6, 22-26, & 62-64, where tenor 1 has the melody.

 

Tenor 2/Bass
This line has the melody for most of verse 1, up until the female voice entries, except for bars 22-26, where it provides harmonic support. When the part re-enters in verse 2, it becomes the bass line until the end of the piece.

 

Tenor, Melody Verse 1
This track cherry picks the melody from tenor 1 and 2 in verse 1, until the female voices enter, then continues with the T1 line. It may be suited to a single tenor as a solo.

 

Bass
This is identical to the Tenor2/Bass line above, throughout, except for bars 22-26, when it is a distinct bass line.

 

Finally, here is an all parts demo, played by wind instruments, with an organ bass.

 

 

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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Peace, Hope & Love! SATB Arrangement

This is a song for peace, adapted by Doug McPherson from a hymn by Trisha Watts. Each year, on August 6th, a group of us meet at a peace monument in Wollongong mall, to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima. We sing a couple of songs, and have a minute of silent reflection. This year, 2020, this was one of the songs we sang.

Sheet Music .pdf
Sheet Music Cropped: .pdf

Practice Tracks

Melody/Soprano (Piano)

Alto (Sung)

Tenor (Sung)

Bass (Sung)

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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

The Price of The Coal: Climate Change

Here is an adaptation of a song written by Wendy Richardson. The original song focuses on the price of the coal in the context of the lives of the miners. This version of the song, with verses written by members of the Illawarra Union Singers, focuses on the price of the coal in terms of environmental costs.

The arrangement is in 2 parts, for higher and lower voices.

Sheet Music

Practice Tracks

Practice your own part, and then practice singing that part with the both parts track. Click here for instructions on how to save practice tracks from this site.

Upper Voice

 

Lower Voice

 

Both Parts

 

A Sung Demo Track With Both Parts: Male Voices

Here is the sheet music, in .jpg format:

Notes on versions:

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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Banks Are Made of Marble

This song was written in 1949 by Les Rice, a farmer from New York State, USA. It deals with the perverse injustice, exploitation and inequality Rice saw all around him. Pete Seeger wrote about Les Rice and this song: “Like most small farmers, he was getting intolerably squeezed by the big companies which sold him all his fertilizer, insecticide and equipment, and the big companies that dictated to him the prices he would get for his produce. Out of that squeeze came this song.”
https://mainlynorfolk.info/folk/songs/banksofmarble.html

It seems to me that the song has particular resonance and currency in Australia at the moment, following the largely ineffectual Royal Commission into Banking. This arrangement is based on an earlier Michael Roper arrangement.

Sheet Music: (pdf, tightly cropped)

To print the music above, look for a setting that says “Fit” or “Fit to Printer Margins”, for a nice big printout, or if that doesn’t work, print the music below.

Sheet Music: (pdf, margins)
Practice Tracks

Soprano/Melody: 2 Verses Plus Chorus

 

Soprano/Melody: Final Chorus

 

Soprano/Melody: Final Chorus; With Click Track

 

Alto: Chorus Only

 

Tenor: Chorus Only

 

Bass: Chorus Only

 

Bass: Chorus Only, With Click Track

 

Here is a recording of the Weavers singing the song, in Bb:

 

And the same Weavers’ recording, with a pitch shift to C:

This last recording with the pitch shift puts the recording into the same key as the arrangement presented here.

How to download practice tracks.

Finally here is the sheet music in .jpg format:

Notes on version changes.

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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Lament for Manus Island:
A Choral Arrangement

Lament for Manus Island In Parts

I was asked for an arrangement of this song for a mixed voice ensemble, so here it is. The score is written with melody, (plus a descant in the chorus), to be sung by sopranos and/or tenors, an alto line and a bass line, with guitar chords indicated.

For the solo version,  click here!

Sheet Music

Lament for Manus Island 4.7 Bm

Lament for Manus Island 4.7 Am
Guitarists may prefer this; capo on 2nd fret for Bm.

The next files are identical to the ones above, except they don’t contain the descant notes in the melody.
Lament for Manus Island 4.7: Bm

Lament for Manus Island 4.7: Am

If you have a previous version of this music the next document lists the main changes which have been made: “Lament for Manus Island” versions.

Practice Tracks

In the all parts track, the melody is the flute sound, the alto the oboe sound, and the bass, a baritone sax.

Soprano/Melody

 

Melody/Descant

 

Alto

 

Bass

 

All Parts Together

 

Here is the original, solo, version of the song. I recorded this in my kitchen.

Here is the sheet music in .jpg format.

A Minor

B Minor

 

And finally, a YouTube video I created to go with the song:

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Illawarra Union Singers Mnogaja Ljeta Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Mnogaja Ljete

I’m unsure of the provenance of this song or the score presented here. Zlatko, of Zlatko’s Balkan Cabaret fame, introduced the song to the Illawarra Union Singers.  The song is apparently a congratulatory song, and can be translated as “Many Summers”, or  “Many Years”.

“Original” Score: (.pdf)
My Transcription of the Score (.pdf)
My Transcription with Piano Reduction & Chords (.pdf)
Practice Tracks

The target voice instruments in each track for SATB are, respectively,  flute, oboe, clarinet and baritone saxophone. The verse is repeated 4 times in each track.

Soprano

 

Alto

 

Tenor

 

Bass

 

All Parts

 

A Roughly Hewn Illawarra Union Singers Rehearsal

And finally, a YouTube performance that pretty much  approximates this score:

Categories
Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks Which Side Are You On?

Which Side Are You On?

Arrangement 1

Arrangement 2

Arrangement 3

Arrangement 4

This seminal song was written by Florence Reece in 1931, in Harlan County, Kentucky.  These  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  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.

Scroll Down, or Click Here for Arrangement 2, Melody, Alto, Tenor and Bass


Arrangement 1

Melody, Tenor and Bass: Altos could sing the bass part, an octave up in the verse.

Sheet Music: .pdf Format
Practice Tracks:

In each of these tracks the targeted voice uses a piano sound.

Melody

 

Tenor

 

Bass

 

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.


Arrangement 2

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.

Sheet Music: .pdf Format
Practice Tracks

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.

Melody

Alto

Tenor

Bass

All Parts


Arrangement 3.2

The differences between versions 2.1 and 3, are the tenor line in the chorus and chords in the chorus, bars 3 and 7.  The alto track is simplified, mirroring the melody except for the first and last bar. The practice tracks use the piano in the target voice. The all parts track uses a wind quartet.

Sheet Music .pdf Format
Practice Tracks

Practice your own part, and then try singing this with the “All Parts” track.

Melody

Alto

Tenor

Bass

All Parts


Arrangement 4

This arrangement contains a more fully developed alto line, and one note altered in the bass line, 2nd quaver in bar 13 changed from A to F. For melody and tenor practice tracks, see arrangement 3, above.

Sheet Music .pdf
Sheet Music .pdf Cropped
If printing the cropped music, look for a setting that says “Fit”, or “Fit to printer margins.”

Alto

 

Bass

 

All Parts

Here is version 4 in .jpg format:


Notes on Recent Versions of This Arrangement

Source Recordings

Florence Reece

Here is a recording of Florence Reece, with the pitch altered to Dm, the same key as the arrangements above.

The Almanac Singers

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Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Walk On

This is an arrangement of a song by ‘Dogmatic Music’, From  ‘Walk On’ Kit – Reconciliation Week, Sorry Day. The educational resource, to commemorate Sorry Day or Reconciliation Week, designed for schools can be purchased and downloaded here.
You can hear their excellent rendition of the song here.
You can find out more about Dogmatic Music and band members Paul McGee, Neil McCann, John Littrich and Sarah McCann here.

You can find out about John Littrich’s amazing folk band, the Water Runners here.

Many thanks to John Littrich for allowing the Illawarra Union Singers to use this song.

Sheet Music

This sheet music, arranged in 3 parts is adapted from the original Dogmatic sheet music.  In a mixed voice choir, the main melody marked alto in the score could be sung by altos and/or baritone voices. The line marked S for soprano, could be sung by sopranos and/or tenor voices. The bass line should be sung by basses.
Score, (All Parts)

Soprano (Upper Voices) (with piano fingering)

Alto (Main Melody, Middle Voices)

Bass

Practice Tracks

Good practice is to sing the part you are learning on its own, and then test your learning by singing it against the “All Parts” track.  These practice tracks contain a “click” track, to signal the tempo, and tempo changes in the coda.

Soprano (Upper Voices)

Alto (Main Melody, Middle Voices)

Bass

All Parts

The next practice tracks contain vocals, but no click track. They are only practice tracks, not recordings of performance quality.

Soprano (Upper Voices): Vocals

Alto (Main Melody, Middle Voices): Vocals (Sung with Baritone Voice)

Alto (Main Melody, Middle Voices): Vocals (Sung with “Alto” Voice)

 

 

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Ballad of 1891 Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks

Ballad of 1891

This is a song about the 1891 Australian shearers’ strike.  The song has been arranged in three parts:
Words: Helen Palmer; Music: Doreen Jacobs; ©1950 Doreen Bridges

Sheet Music
Here is the definitive score, I’ve worked from, sourced from the Sydney Trade Union Choir, (STUC) in Cm.
Sydney Trade Union Choir Score (.pdf)

From this I transcribed individual parts.  Lyrics to be sung in unison, (or by male singers only), are in bold italics. Some numbered piano fingerings are included, along with guitar chords in the melody part. These are all .pdf files.
Melody/Soprano 
Alto
Baritone
I’ve also created a lead sheet, with just the melody line, transposed to Am. To get to Cm, use a capo on the 3rd fret..
Melody/Soprano Am

Lyrics
Lyrics (Word Document)
Lyrics (.pdf)

Practice Tracks (Instrumental)
Soprano/Melody

Alto

Baritone

All Parts

If aiming for the Sydney Trade Union Choir arrangement, perhaps the best thing to listen to is their stunning performance:

STUC Performance

Also, have a listen to two different Bushwacker’s Band performances.

 

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Illawarra Union Singers Music Arrangements & Practice Tracks Power In A Union

Power In A Union

Here is an arrangement of Billy Bragg’s veritable anthem, “Power In A Union”, based on the American Civil War song, “The Battle Cry of Freedom”, which was written by the wonderfully named George F. Root. This arrangement by Christine Evans, with annotations including chords and the appropriate entry point for the bass voices. Aside from these annotations neither any of the arrangement, nor any of the practice tracks are my work.

Sheet Music (.pdf)

Practice Tracks

Soprano

Alto

Tenor

Bass

It’s worth having a listen to Billy Bragg in full voice and flight!

Finally here is the score in picture, .jpg, format.