I arrange music. There, I said it. I compose my own original pieces, and I also arrange music.

Some of my arrangements make me so happy, it’s almost as though the final music is more “my music” than pieces that I created entirely, melody and all.

That’s all I really gain when I create an arrangement, of course: a melody. A melody I already love.

I believe every piece I’ve arranged began as a song, whether a folk song or a liturgical song or hymn. One notable arrangement is a blues song. I believe they are all songs.

That means I have words helping me out, too. In fact, the words are often a better clue to the inner essence of the song than the harmonies are. For me, at least.

So I like to arrange the songs I love for piano solo, and I like to find something in them that is so-far undiscovered. (There is one song whose melody I love so much, I have 4 arrangements of it, 2 of which are recorded. That’s Forest Green from A Handfull of Quietness, which also appears at the end of All Through the Night on Under the Greenwood Tree. And I have 2 other ways that I play it. I expect to have more, before I’m all finished!)

I’ve been creating an arrangement of an American hymn written in the 1850s, called Homeward Bound. I think you’ll agree with me that the text, by W.F. Warren, is rich in imagery:

Out on an ocean all boundless we ride,
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound;
Tossed on the waves of a rough, restless tide,
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound;
Far from the safe, quiet harbor we rode,
Seeking our Father’s celestial abode;
Promise of which on us each He bestowed:
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound.

Wildly the storm sweeps us on as it roars, 
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound; 
Look! yonder lie the bright heavenly shores:
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound;
Steady O pilot! stand firm at the wheel;
Steady! we soon shall out–weather the gale;
Oh, how we fly ’neath the loud–creaking sail!
We’re homeward bound, homeward bound.

Into the harbor of heaven now we glide;
We’re home at last, home at last;
Softly we drift on its bright silver tide:
We’re home at last, home at last;
Glory to God! all our dangers are o’er;
We stand secure on the glorified shore;
Glory to God! we will shout ever more:
We’re home at last, home at last.

I found it in a songbook from the early 1900s, called Heart Songs. I loved it immediately and I’ve fiddled with it (piano-ed with it?) occasionally for the past several years. A year or so ago I decided I “had” it and it was merely an issue of piano practice to be able to record it.

Not so fast! Homeward Bound resisted all my attempts to master playing it. The problem was the third verse. I’ve set it in A major & in the first verse the melody falls around middle C. Second verse — one octave higher! Third verse — yet another octave higher! BUT it didn’t sound very full up there, so I added many notes to the left hand part to make it richer. BUT then it just sounded frantic, which you can see is why I thought that practice was the solution.

Turns out, practice wasn’t the solution. About a month ago I faced the music & admitted that the third verse just wasn’t sounding beautiful, powerful, “heavenly.” I had too many notes in the left hand for the music to be majestic. So I created a new way of approaching the beginning of the third verse, and voilà: a huge statement, almost worthy of “the glorified shore.” (If I do say so myself.)

Homeward Bound notes

© 2013 Indigo Mesa Music

I love it so much, I’d name the entire CD Homeward Bound, except that would raise the wrong expectations.

[This summer, after England, Ireland, & piano tuning, I’ll do a rough draft recording for you. CD expected in January.]

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