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A young student once asked Bill, "How do you know when to write a song?" Bill answered, "It's easy! When I feel it right here!" as he pointed to his heart. That's the way Bill was feeling that day in 1976 when he composed his first ballad "The Rhine of America." It's not surprising that it was about the Hudson's 350-mile journey from Lake Tear of the Clouds to New York harbor. When Bill was a boy, he literally played in the Hudson while jumping rocks in the same sections of the river where the old log drives passed through in floating the logs to the mill. Bill went on to compose songs about early Adirondack logging, mining, and railroading while others tell about people related to Adirondack and New York State history. These include John Brown, David Henderson, Noah John Rondeau and explorers Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain. He also wrote ballads about historic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Fort Ticonderoga. Bill's compositions tie in the names of many other important people and places in our American heritage. He reaches a wide range of audiences because of his versatility as a composer and performer. Bill's concerts include love ballads, country tunes, sing-a-longs, and humorous songs all of which he has composed. It is this foundation, along with his distinctive musical style, that makes up the songs on his cassette tapes A Place in America and A Place in America Part II. The lyrics to all of his songs are featured in his autobiography Echoes from the Past.
History ballads composed by Bill Hall
Although Bill was born in Newcomb over a half a century ago, it wasn't until the year 2001 that he actually composed a song about his hometown. Many years ago, the town of Newcomb was known as Pendleton. The name of Bill's song is "Santanoni Skies (over Pendleton)." Bill debuted his ballad in concert at the deserted village of Adirondac, which was part of the Newcomb Roosevelt Celebrations for 2001. The lyrics to "Santanoni Skies (over Pendleton)" are included in his autobiography Echoes from the Past.
Bill's Guitar Style
While Chet Atkins made Bill realize the importance of a personal guitar style, it was his respect for classical guitar master Andres Segovia that helped him discipline himself enough in his studies to accomplish his goal. Through his self-study of music, Bill discovered how the fountains at the Alhambra Palace in Spain were of great inspiration to guitarist and composer Francisco Tarrega. Thus, the bubbling springs and tributaries of the Upper Hudson River became his fountains and the Adirondack Mountains became his palace. When his classically based guitar style merged with nature, it led to his developing a unique fingerpicking guitar style he calls pick-a-dilly. Along with added encouragement from classical guitarist Eliot Fisk, whom Bill met in 1980, he went on to compose his Dozen Picadilly Studies. These guitar pieces, which include the popular "Black Fly Lullaby," are found on his cassette tape Adirondack Revival.
In 1989, Bill's music took him to Nashville. While he was in Music City U.S.A., he thanked Chet Atkins for all of the good that had come to his music because of him. This led to his composing a guitar piece for Chet called "Echoes from the Past." During Bill's stay in Nashville, he also shared several of his original works with classically trained guitarist Muriel Anderson. She encouraged Bill to continue his composing and also inspired him to change over to the classical guitar full time. The tradition of the classical guitar seemed to match that of the Adirondacks. In return, Bill composed a classical guitar piece for her called "Tennessee Air." Since that time, Bill has composed over forty works for the guitar. These include the Zack Lake Trilogy and the Hudson River Suite. Each piece pays homage to his influences including Francisco Tarrega and Andres Segovia.
Bill's original works are the flowers grown from the seeds of countless composers down through the ages. Perhaps the most important thing beyond his contribution to music and the Adirondacks is that he answered his calling. Hear the busy sounds of nature, the silent presence of a sunset, the haunting melodies of flowers blooming and the trills of bubbling springs overflowing.
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