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American Sketches

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Pierre La Plante

Pierre La Plante

General Info

Year: 2014
Duration: c. 7:35
Difficulty: II (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Daehn Publications
Cost: Score and Parts - $80.00   |   Score Only - $8.00


1. The Shantyman's Life - 2:45
2. The Erie Canal - 2:36
3. Shoo Fly - 2:20


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Snare Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Chimes
  • Orchestra Chimes
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tenor Drum
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Whip
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

This inviting suite features three complementary American folksongs in an attractive sonic package. “The Shantyman’s Life” is marked “Moderato,” while the quicker “The Erie Canal,” is marked “Unhurried, easy swing.” The joyful “Shoo Fly (Don’t Bother Me),” marked “Capriciously,” concludes the suite.

-Program Note from The Instrumentalist, December 2014, p. 41

As with many folksongs, The Shantyman's Life exists in numerous versions. The setting is based on a transcription from a field recording I found in the archives of the Mills Music Library at the University of Winconsin-Madison. I am grateful to the library staff for their assistance and their permission to use the song. A shantyman is another name for logger, or lumberjack. Many of these songs by and about shantymen can be boastful and bawdy, but this particular songs seems more introspective, subdued and tinged with a bit of loneliness:

Come all you jolly fellows, come listen to my song.
It's all about the pin'ry boys and how they go along.
Into the lonesome pine woods, all winter to remain.
A-waiting for the springtime to return again.

The Erie Canal, while appearing in numerous collections as a folksong, was actually written in 1906 by Thomas Allen and refers to the famous canal (finished in 1825) that connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Rivers and canals were the main mode of transportation for bulk goods long before paved highways and even the railroads. Excerpts from the lyrics provide a mini history lesson:

Ife got a mule and her name is Sal, fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
We've hauled some barges in our day, filled with lumber, coal and hay...
And we know every inch of the way, from Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down,
Low bridge for we're coming to a town.

Shoo Fly is now a well-known children's song, but had its original with African American soldiers during the Civil War and was also popular during the Spanish American War, no doubt because of the deprivations and awful living conditions brought on by war. The original lyrics would nowadays be considered offensive, and much background and speculative information regarding the song can be found online.

The present lyrics are as follows:

Shoo Fly don't bother me (3x)
I feel, I feel, I feel ...I feel like the morning star!

The first performance of American Sketches was at Bruce High School (Bruce, WI) on November 19, 2013, by the Lakeland All-Conference Honors Band under the direction of Dr. John R Stewart. The inclusion of The Shantyman's Life was a happy coincidence, given that Bruce is located in Northern Wisconsin, once the heart of the great pine timber industry of 19th century Wisconsin.

-Program Note by composer

The Shantyman's Life is the first of three movements. A shantyman is another name for a logger or lumberjack. This particular folk song is introspective, subdued, and tinged with a bit of loneliness.

- Program Note from Tara Winds concert program, 19 December 2015


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer


None discovered thus far.