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Ives' Second Orchestral Set consists of the following three movements:

  • i. An Elegy to Our Forefathers
  • ii. The Rockstrewn Hills Join in the People's Outdoor Meeting
  • iii. From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voices of the People Again Arose


Ives' Second Orchestral Set is less popular than his First Orchestral Set. Perhaps my reaction is typical. Three Places in New England floored me immediately. The Second Orchestral Set took time for me to appreciate. Now, I love it. In the hands of the right conductor, it's immensely powerful.

In any case, Ives held the work in high regard, especially the third movement. In a fascinating recollection from his Memos, he recounts the origins of "From Hanover Square North...":

...There's a personal experience behind [the third movement], the story of which I will now try to tell. We were living in an apartment at 27 West 11th Street. The morning paper on the breakfast table gave the news of the sinking of the Lusitania. I remember, going downtown to business, the people on the streets and on the elevated train had something in their faces that was not the usual something. Everybody who came into the office, whether they spoke about the disaster or not, showed a realization of seriously experiencing something. (That it meant war is what the faces said, if the tongues didn't.) Leaving the office and going uptown about 6 o'clock, I took the Third Avenue "L" at the Hanover Square Station. As I came on the platform, there was quite a crowd waiting for the trains, which had been blocked lower down, and while waiting there, a hand-organ, or hurdy gurdy was playing on a street below. Some workmen sitting on the side of the tracks began to whistle the tune, and others began to sing or hum the refrain. A workman with a shovel over his shoulder came on the platform and joined in the chorus, and the next man, a Wall Street banker with white spats and a cane, joined in it, and finally it seemed to me that everybody was singing this tune, and they didn't seem to be singing for fun, but as a natural outlet for what their feelings had been going through all day long. There was a feeling of dignity all through this. The hand-organ man seemed to sense this and wheeled the organ nearer the platform and kept it up fortissimo (and the chorus sounded out as though every man in New York must be joining in it). Then the first train came and everybody crowded in, and the song eventually died out, but the effect on the crowd still showed. Almost nobody talked-the people acted as though they might be coming out of a church service. In going uptown, occasionally little groups of would start singing or humming the tune.

Now what was the tune? It wasn't a Broadway hit, it wasn't a musical comedy air, it wasn't a waltz tune or a dance tune or an opera tune or a classical tune, or a tune that all of them probably knew. It was (only) the refrain of an old Gospel Hymn that had stirred many people of past generations. It was nothing but--"In the Sweet Bye and Bye." It wasn't a tune written to be sold, or written by a professor of music--but by a man who was but giving out an experience.

This third movement is based on this, fundamentally, and comes from that "L" station. It has secondary themes and rhythms, but widely related, and its general makeup would reflect the sense of many people living, working, and occasionally going through the same deep experience, together...[92-93].

Composition History

Ives assembled the Orchestral Set No. 2 circa 1919 from material composed circa 1909 to 1919.

Ives derived some of the first movement, "An Elegy to Our Forefathers," from an unfinished "Overture to Stephen Foster." Tunes that Ives "borrowed" for this movement include:

  • "Jesus Loves Me"
  • "Massa's in de Cold Ground"
  • "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"
  • "Old Black Joe"
  • "Revellie"

The second movement, "The Rockstrewn Hills Join in the People's Outdoor Meeting," is largely derived from Ives' own "Four Ragtime Dances," especially No. 3. In this movement, Ives also quotes:

  • "Bringing in the Sheaves"
  • "The Girl I Left Behind Me"
  • "Happy Day"
  • "Massa's in de Cold Ground"
  • "Rock-a-Bye Baby"
  • "Yankee Doodle"

The third movement, "From Hanover Square North…," quotes the following tunes:

  • "Massa's in de Cold Ground" (again!)
  • "Ewing"
  • "My Old Kentucky Home"
  • "Sweet Bye and Bye"
  • "Te Deum"

Premiere Performance

Morton Gould and the Chicago SO premiered the Second Orchestral Set on February 11, 1967 in Chicago.

Premiere Recording

Morton Gould and the Chicago SO and chorus performed the premiere recording of the Second Orchestral Set in 1967 (RCA Victor, LSC-2959). This recording is still available in the U.K. as RCA Navigator 09026-61402-2.



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Original text copyright © Scott Mortensen 2002