Book Details & CD Samples

The American Songbook Preservation Society describes the Great American Songbook as “a distinct body of musical works which collectively represent one of America’s true cultural treasures, and exemplify popular songwriting at its best, with vivid, literate lyrics set to haunting elusive harmonies and gorgeous melodies that have come to hold an exalted place in American culture and around the world.”

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" sheet music

“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911)

These songs deserve much more attention than they now receive and this book has been written partly to feature them once more. But the overriding purpose for producing this new collection for piano and cello is to create fairly simple versions of popular American songs for amateur musicians to enjoy together. Having a partner while playing music offers both players emotional satisfaction of a deep and unique kind. The familiarity of the tunes should make sight-reading easier. Since these popular melodies cover many styles, there are songs here that should appeal to players of all ages and abilities.

These remarkable, popular American songs were best-sellers in their times and are still well known because they are fun to play or sing. But these piano and cello arrangements also offer less experienced cellists and pianists an opportunity to enjoy playing real music while (incidentally) they practice scales, tricky rhythms and advanced positions.

Rocket ship, Stars and Moon

“Fly Me To The Moon” (1954)

Included with the book is an audio CD with MP3 recordings of all the songs in the book. Most modern CD players (and computers) can play an “MP3 CD,” and of course the files can be loaded onto a digital music player. Also on the CD is a PDF file containing all of the scores, which you may find convenient to print out, rather than sharing the printed scores in the book with your musical partner. This book assumes the reader has learned to read sheet music by using “Cello Playing for Music Lovers” or by studying music with a teacher, or both.

For every song we provide three tracks on the CD: Cello and Piano together, Piano part only, and Cello part only. This allows you to get accustomed to how the parts should sound when played together, to practice by playing along with a recorded version of your musical partner’s part, and even to play along in sync with your own solo instrumental part.

The book is divided into three broad, roughly chronological sections.

Section 1: presents songs from 1630 to the early twentieth century and the introduction of more sophisticated rhythms and more complex harmonies. For example, “We Gather Together” was sung by Dutchmen as they entered an entirely unknown world. “Amazing Grace” expressed the mood of young Americans looking for a spiritual realm. “After the Ball” was the first best-seller, written when people could buy sheet music easily and “The Entertainer” signaled the entry of Afro-American composers into mainstream American society.

1. “We Gather Together” (1626) Traditional
"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" pages 12-13: "We Gather Together" intro.

2. “Oh, Dear, What Can The Matter Be?” (1795) Traditional
3. “Amazing Grace” (1779) Traditional
4. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1872) Traditional
5. “After the Ball” (1892) Charles Harris

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" page 28: "After The Ball" sheet music sample.
  Play “After The Ball” (Mixed) (:38 excerpt)
  Play “After The Ball” (Piano) (:38 excerpt)
  Play “After The Ball” (Cello) (:38 excerpt)

6. “The Entertainer” (1902) Scott Joplin
7. “Yankee Doodle Boy” (1904) George M. Cohan

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" page 38: "Yankee Doodle Boy" sheet music sample.
  Play “Yankee Doodle Boy” (Mixed) (:24 excerpt)
  Play “Yankee Doodle Boy” (Piano) (:24 excerpt)
  Play “Yankee Doodle Boy” (Cello) (:24 excerpt)

8. “America The Beautiful” (1910) Samuel A. Ward & Katherine Lee Bates
9. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911) Irving Berlin

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

Section 2: takes us from the early twentieth century to the beginning of World War II. This period, including the 1920s and 1930s, contains the most easily remembered songs listed in the Great American Songbook. The lyrics to “Georgia On My Mind” were originally written for composer Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, Georgia, but it has gone on to become the state song of Georgia and one of Ray Charles’ most beloved classics, while “The Way You Look Tonight” offered a natural model for modern expressions of love.

10. “Someone To Watch Over Me” (1926) George & Ira Gershwin

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" page 53: "Someone To Watch Over Me" sheet music sample.
  Play “Someone To Watch Over Me” (Mixed) (1:02 excerpt)
  Play “Someone To Watch Over Me” (Piano) (1:02 excerpt)
  Play “Someone To Watch Over Me” (Cello) (1:02 excerpt)

11. “Always” (1925) Irving Berlin
"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" pages 56-57: Irving Berlin profile.

12. “Georgia On My Mind” (1930) Hoagy Carmichael
13. “Autumn in New York” (1934) Vernon Duke
14. “In A Sentimental Mood” (1935) Duke Ellington

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" page 73: "In A Sentimental Mood" sheet music sample.
  Play “In A Sentimental Mood” (Mixed) (1:07 excerpt)
  Play “In A Sentimental Mood” (Piano) (1:07 excerpt)
  Play “In A Sentimental Mood” (Cello) (1:07 excerpt)

15. “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936) Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields
16. “Easy To Love” (1936) Cole Porter
17. “My Funny Valentine” (1937) Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
18. “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1938) Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Section 3: takes us from 1939 to the 1960s. While the Great American Songbook is usually thought of as limited to songs written between the 1920s and 1960s, the songs we’ve come to think of as “standards” encompass a much broader time frame, so the book includes songs right up to the appearance of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. “Fly Me To The Moon” expresses an ebullient post-war confidence, “We Shall Overcome” presages the coming turbulence of the ‘60s and Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” gives us one of the most enduring ballads of that era.

19. “You Are My Sunshine” (1940) Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell
20. “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” (1943) Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
21. “If I Loved You” (1945) Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" page 100: "If I Loved Yoy" sheet music sample.
  Play “If I loved You” (Mixed) (:55 excerpt)
  Play “If I loved You” (Piano) (:55 excerpt)
  Play “If I loved You” (Cello) (:55 excerpt)

22. “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” (1949) Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
23. “Fly Me To The Moon” (1954) Bart Howard

"Great American Songs: Duets for Piano and Cello" pages 106-107: "Fly Me To The Moon" sheet music sample.
  Play “Fly Me To The Moon” (Mixed) (:32 excerpt)
  Play “Fly Me To The Moon” (Piano) (:32 excerpt)
  Play “Fly Me To The Moon” (Cello) (:32 excerpt)

24. “Love Me Tender” (1956) Elvis Presley & Vera Matson
25. “The Sound Of Music” (1959) Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
26. “We Shall Overcome” (1960) Frank Hamilton, Zilphia Horton, Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan
27. “Sunrise, Sunset” (1964) Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick