“Angels Join in Distance”

It finally occurs to me that it would be a public service to make known the quiet “harmonic” thirds (denoting “angels” joining in in the distance) that John Kirkpatrick adds to accompany the passage quoting the hymn “Martyn” in his 1968 recording of the Hawthorne movement of the Concord Sonata, about four or five minutes in. The idea from Hawthorne’s story “The Celestial Rail-Road” (a parody based on Pilgrim’s Progress)  is that the travelers on the train to the Heavenly City are hearing the hymn of the pilgrims who are going there on foot; it’s Ives’s musically-motivated idea that the angels join in. Below is the example from my book, which includes the extra notes Kirkpatrick plays, notated a little differently than in Kirkpatrick’s own personal version of the Concord, but following the rhythms that Ives himself wrote in the corresponding passage of the Fourth Symphony, second movement. The asterisks note chords in the 1920 edition that Ives would change for the 1947: all of them improvements. Pencil the top staff’s dyads into your own score and play them from now on! Let’s make this the new (optional) performance practice!

Hawthorne 34-3asJK



  1. Aaron Likness says

    This is a great resource for pianists to have available in study. I think you’re right that the thirds are an improvement on this section; aside from being such a wonderful effect, it makes the bare texture of the hymn “fit” with the rest of the piece.

    I play a slightly different version of this from the sketches— including some different thirds toward the end and a moving line in the fourth and fifth bars of this excerpt (“as harp”). I think Kirkpatrick’s version is perhaps a hybrid of that sketch and of sources related to The Celestial Railroad and the 4th Symphony. (Kirkpatrick must have written down where exactly it comes from, but I haven’t seen his performance scores.) Kalish seems to follow Kirkpatrick, although he leaves out a few of them, and strangely agrees with Kirkpatrick on the 2nd beat of the 3rd bar… otherwise, if I remember correctly, Kalish sticks pretty faithfully to the 1947 edition.