Singing at home

When not to lead “Amsterdam”

Singing in the Sacred Harp tradition is like singing in a smallish church choir: you don’t know from week to week who is going to show up.

This week in the middle of the singing we had 8 basses, 6 tenors, 4 altos (including one man singing countertenor), and 2 trebles. The two trebles were both very strong singers, which turned out to be a good thing. Without thinking, I stood up to lead 84 “Amsterdam,” in several measures of which only the basses and trebles are singing. As I started, I realized that it probably wasn’t a wise choice. But those two strong trebles, Carl and Shelbie, held their own against four times as many basses.

If I were a better Sacred Harp singer, I would have thought twice about leading “Amsterdam” tonight. If I were a really good Sacred Harp singer, I would have been listening to the various sections and would have known that Carl and Shelbie could hold their own with the basses, and would not have worried about leading “Amsterdam.” But I am not a good singer, and naively went ahead and led what I wanted to lead, and it just happened to work out.