Amazing Grace

As with many hymn tunes, the tune NEW BRITAIN is better known by the words most often associated with it: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Typical of Appalachian folk tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN was first published as a shape-note hymn tune in Columbian Harmony (1829), and it was first set to John Newton’s (1725-1807) “Amazing Grace” in William Walker’s shape-note hymnal, Southern Harmony (1835).

The tune is popular with players of the Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB), for which this arrangement is written. Due to the non-chromatic nature of that instrument and the notes available on it, “NEW BRITAIN” can be played in only one key — D major, with the drone reeds sounding a constant “A.” However, because the GHB is tuned to a pitch above A=440 (A=470 or higher — higher, even, than B-flat in conventional tuning), the piper must employ a “concert-pitch” chanter and drone reeds to match pitch with the brass. Thus, the full ensemble can perform “New Britain” in the concert key of Eb (though the notation for the bagpipe remains in D).

In this arrangement, brass quintet plays one verse of the tune in Bb, shifts to Eb for the bagpipe’s entrance and verse, then modulates to Ab for a final verse and ending.

Parts include an optional organ substitute part (played on reed stop) for the bagpipes, so this arrangement may be played with a conventional instrumentation of brass quintet and organ.

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba, bagpipes, organ sub part) — $12.99