Charles Ives' Third Symphony, ‘The Camp Meeting’ is the most concisely-scored of his five symphonies. Containing only Strings, a few Winds, Horns and Trombone this is a clear and uncluttered reminiscence of nineteenth century America as viewed through some of its traditional hymn tunes, and in doing so evokes the old 'camp meetings' which were such a feature of pioneer life.
The first movement, ‘Old Folks' Gatherin'’ is a patchwork of hymn tunes drifting through an unpredictable, constantly changing harmonic orientation. After a climax is reached, a quiet passage opens with oboe and flute over hushed, distant strings. Ives reintroduces part of the middle section, and settles down to a quiet coda, ending the movement almost imperceptibly.
The second movement, ‘Children's Day’ opens with strings in two parts over Haydnesque eighth notes in the horns. ‘There is a Fountain Filled with Blood’, ‘Happy Land’, ‘Naomi’, and ‘There's Music in the Air’ all are heard. As this is a movement depicting children at play, Ives is playful himself, weaving hymn tunes into one another in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. The third movement, ‘Communion’ is darker in tone than the others and provides a psychologically satisfactory close to the work as a whole. This is the 1990 edition of the Score, The Charles Ives Society Critical Edition, edited by Kenneth Singleton and reprinted in 2001. It contains substantial notes on Ives and this work.