33 year old Katherine Lee Bates, a college English professor, originally wrote the words as a poem, Pikes Peak. When it was first published in the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895, the poem was retitled America. She would revise her poem in 1904 and 1911. It was sung to many tunes, including Auld Lang Syne and Amazing Grace, and over 75 melodies were composed for the poem.
Samuel A. Ward had originally written the music, Materna, for the hymn O Mother Dear, Jerusalem while at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey, in 1882, though it was more than ten years before it would be published.
The two elements were combined and published in 1910 and retitled America the Beautiful. It quickly became the most popular combination of Bates’ poem set to music.
This reharmonization by James L. King III is lush and filled with extended jazz harmonies. It will be a treasured arrangement for special occasions.
Key: C major
Mood: solemn, reverent, patriotic
Pedagogy: rolled chords, extended harmonies, rubato, pedaling