and orchestra of the spiritual ‘Keep Me from Sinkin’ Down‘.
The history of the piece is as follows: during SC-T’s visit to the Norfolk, Connecticut, Festival in 1910, he overheard Mrs Stoeckel (the wife of the festival patron, Carl Stoeckel) playing the negro hymn ‘Keep Me from Sinking Down, Good Lord‘ on the piano. As Geoffrey Self writes in The Hiawatha Man, “Impressed with its beauty, he thought he had found a subject for the slow movement of the violin concerto he was then planning. It was a tune Mrs Stoeckel had learned from her father, to whom it had been passed down by a slave. In the event, SC-T found it impractical to use this tune and instead, he wrote a slow movement based on another negro hymn, ‘Many thousand gone‘.” This, too, was ultimately set aside (and survives only in a short-score version for violin and piano), the final version of the violin concerto having a slow movement which is an entirely original composition, not based on any folk material.
In spite of that, both Maud Powell, the renowned American violinist for whom SCT was writing his concerto, and Carl Stoeckel pressed SC-T for an arrangement of ‘Keep Me from Sinking Down, Good Lord‘, to be made for violin and orchestra. Unable to resist this plea, he made the transcription and sent it in time for it to be used as an encore in the premiere performance of the Concerto which was given in June 1912 at the Norfolk festival. As far as Patrick and I know, the manuscript of this transcription (which runs to just over 200 bars) has lain undisturbed in the Stoeckel family papers at Yale University Library for the intervening 100 years.