Sangamon River Waltzes

Composer, Henry W. Cary (original date unknown)
Edited and arranged by David Brian Williams © Copyright 2012

The edited version is dedicated to the  Bloomington-Normal Community Concert Band 

The Sangamon River and "The Land of Lincoln" are bound in Illinois history and legend. Sangamon River country starts in McLean County, southeast of Bloomington, and meanders down through Decatur, Springfield, and joining the Illinois River just east of Beardstown, Illinois. Lincoln spent his early Illinois years growing up along the Sangamon, running flat boats on the Sangamon, Illinois, and Mississippi rivers, and later, his activity as a circuit court lawyer took him throughout Sangamon River country.

Performance by the Prairie Wind Ensemble in concert, May 2013, the arranger conducting.


The original hand manuscript for this composition is in the Bloomington-Normal Community Concert Band (CCB) library.  The hand manuscript appears to have been hastily prepared for a performance with no conductor's score in any form, only the individual parts. My attempts to find information about Henry Cary or the source of this score or the occasion for which it was performed have not been fruitful.  Dr. Paul Rosene, a conductor of the CCB many years ago, offers this story about the piece:


During my undergraduate days as a music major at Illinois State Normal University in the 40's Mr. Wayne F. Sherrard was the university band director.  I played cornet in the band, and was also the band music librarian.  Mr. Henry W. Cary was a close friend of Mr. Sherrard, and lived for a while in Illinois.  He would visit ISNU often, and bring some of his pieces to Mr. Sherrard. I distinctly recall that we read through the Sangamon Rinver Walzes during those days. I met  Mr. Cary at that time and several times he mentioned his love of music. Mr. Sherrard also had contacts in Iowa, where Mr. Cary spent his younger days. They had much in common. Mr. Cary  was also a painter, a true artist with many wonderful works to his credit.


Imagine this set of waltzes, done in the style of Strauss waltzes, being performed for a grand ball of Lincoln's time.  The women are dressed in their finest, colorful gowns with all their hoops and corsets;  the men in black-tie formal dress or their military uniforms.  The piece begins with a fanfare announcing the evening's ball followed by a promenade in 4/4 as the guests arrive and greet one another. Then there are five waltzes for the evening in various styles and moods: Waltz #1 is a slow, formal grand waltz; Waltz #2 is a leisurely waltz at a moderato tempo; Waltz #3 is graceful and lilting with trumpet solo; Waltz #4 is spritely and fun with bells and wind arpeggios; and Waltz #5 offers a rollicking circus tempo to climax the evening. The piece then returns to the grand waltz--a chance to catch the dancers' breath-- before an exhilarating final coda. The tempo markings have been carefully selected in keeping with typical Strauss waltzes.


Given the regional interest in the Sangamon River, I recreated this work in an edited and revised version.  In the process of doing so, considerable editing was required to fix original errors in manuscript preparation; bring  consistency to expression, articulation, and other score markings; update instrumentation (originally scored for Db Piccolo, Eb Horns, Cornets with no Trumpet); and personally enhance the bandestration throughout to provide better balance and more variety.  The original key was concert Ab.  My personal apologies to Mr. Cary, whereever he may be, if I strayed too far from his original intentions for this delightful set of waltzes for wind band.


The first performance of the new edited version was in the Spring of 2012 for the CCB's concert at Westminster Village, Bloomington.  It was performed again during a Franklin Park 2012 summer concert honoring Abraham Lincoln and by the Prairie Wind Ensemble, May 10, 2013, in concert.

Dave Williams 
August 2012 
Bloomington, Illinois

The B-N Community Concert Band  P.O. Box 5081 |  Bloomington IL 61702-5081 | Send e-mail for more information | Copyright © B-N Community Concert Band, 1999-2014