How Can I Keep from Singing? is a traditional Christian hymn with a rather unusual and convoluted history. It was composed by American minister Robert Lowry in 1860. One very interesting aspect of the hymn is that it appears to have always been printed with no time signature. There is a very free form feeling to the hymn, even in its appearance in modern hymnals.
Pete Seeger, American folksinger, learned this song from Doris Plenn, who acquired it from her North Carolina family. His version made this song fairly well known in the folk revival of the 1960's. Seeger's version omits much of the Christian wording of the original and adds a verse. There is evidence that the Plenn family considered the hymn a Quaker Hymn. The song received new prominence in 1991 when New Age Irish singer, Enya, released a recording of the hymn. Like most folksingers, Enya's design was a copy of Seeger's version. The hymn keeps reappearing in one fashion or another, recorded by a diverse collection of singers, fromEva Cassidy to Judy Collins, to Chris Tomlin in 2006.
Elizabeth Fritz and her husband James are both band directors in Decorah, Iowa. This piece was commissioned by the Gall family (Liz's family) as a memorial to Jim's father, Louis Fritz. As Liz wrote, Louis Fritz was a man filled with positive vibes and the love of music. He sang in a Barbershop chorus for over 40 years and was always a great supporter of everything musical! Liz thought this hymn summed up all that was wonderful in her father-in-law and asked if I could use it as the catalyst for this memorial piece.
During the course of time waiting for the piece to be written, Jim and Liz lost a very dear friend and vocal music colleague, Lynette Wilson, to acute liver failure. This hymn was sung at her funeral by a choir of students and alumni from her 25-year teaching career. Unfortunately, Richard Gall (Liz's dad, also an avid singer and musician) also passed away just weeks before this piece was finished.
In the middle of the composition, there is section for vocal solo. This was added at the request of the Fritz family, honoring Lynette Wilson. However, there is an option for a trumpet solo at that segment if a vocalist is unavailable or trumpet solo is preferred.
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