Wildwood Flower was published in 1860 by composer Joseph Philbrick Webster and originally titled “I’ll Twine ‘Mid the Ringlets.” It was made popular in the 1920’s by the Carter Family. For my arrangement, although this is not a religious song, I pictured a southern church congregation, all playing guitars, while the tune is sung in a very simple, direct way by a soloist who is then joined by two others in harmony. In the second part, the congregation puts down their guitars and sings a shape-note hymn. This method of hymn singing (also called fasola, or Sacred Harp) was very common in southern churches and many musicians (including the Carter Family and Bill Monroe) grew up singing in this style. Different shapes are used for the note-heads to make the notes easier to distinguish. The singers are arranged in a square with the leader in the middle. What particularly interests me about shape-note is the full, pure, non-vibrato vocal style. I had the opportunity to sing some of this music and to lead a hymn. The experience of standing in the middle of a choir singing a shape-note hymn is very powerful.
from Tom Swafford's String Power,
released September 10, 2015
composer: Joseph Philbrick Webster. arranger: Tom Swafford
performed by Tom Swafford's String Power