The Canonical Island Hymn

My letterpress project in September was a three-panel rendering of the lyrics to The Island Hymn, by Prince Edward Island author L.M. Montgomery. The song is, officially, “the patriotic song of Prince Edward Island.” Montgomery wrote it in 1907, and it was first performed, to the tune of God Save The King, on Arbor Day in 1907. The following year, with lyrics by Lawrence W. Watson, the hymn was first performed as we know it today.

(Purchase the set of 3 from my Etsy shop if you’d like your own)

Each panel of my “triptych” of The Island Hymn is printed in black ink on a Golding Jobber No. 8 letterpress on a 5½ by 6½ inch piece of plain white card stock. The larger face is 60 point Akzidenz Grotesk and the smaller is Univers (both faces are type purchased used, this spring, from Atelier Domino).

The Island Hymn, 3rd verse, in letterpress chase

I presented a set to my friend Catherine Hennessey for her birthday this year, and in return she kindly gave me a copy of the lyrics and sheet music prepared by the 1973 Centennial Commission (1MB PDF).

I took the sheet music from that brochure, scanned it on my Doxie scanner and the scanned image through a demo copy of the SharpEye Music Scanner application for Windows which resulted in a MIDI file of The Island Hymn which I dragged into Garage Band. The result, after some fiddling, was that I could listen to the music as I was reading the lyrics I’d printed:

(There’s a bug in the 3rd bar in the bass line that I struggled and failed to correct — my musical knowledge has been slowing draining away since piano lessons ended 30 years ago — and I welcome a corrected version if you’ve got the MIDI chops to help me.)

There’s something magical about taking a 39 year old piece of sheet music of a 104 year old piece of music and, 20 minutes and some digital processing later, having it come out of your headphones.

If you want to hear a more rousing and real-world rendition of The Island Hymn, check out this YouTube video shot in Florida of vacationing Islanders singing their hearts out. If you look carefully you can see a former Premier of Prince Edward Island in the choir.


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