I know it’s a bit outré to use a video clip from a TV show, but hear me out. Click the second link below first before you watch the clip. The Morehouse College Glee Club sings the song masterfully. The harmonies are tight and the dynamics are powerful.
Now click on the video clip. It’s an entirely different song now. Using it as the song the railroad workers sing as they hammer the nails into the track – singing a song about building a home as they’re building the railroad – is genius, and very moving. The clip is from the TV show, “Hell on Wheels,” which is about the creation of the Union Pacific railroad after the Civil War. By and large, the men working on the railroad are (very recently) freed slaves. The rest are immigrants from Ireland and settlers from the rest of the country. Together they are building the railroad that will knit the country, torn in two by the war, back into one nation – a new home for everyone. The first sharp clang of the hammer on the nail is a wonderful moment. The rest of the scene shows the protagonist of the story, Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier in the Confederate army who has sought a kind of redemption in spearheading the construction of the Union Pacific, being led to a Mormon camp to answer for a crime he committed. The Mormons, too, are building a home for themselves in the new country. To have this song running through this scene that shows all of these different groups joined by the same goal…it’s pretty powerful.