Two weeks from today, some Bay Area Sacred Harp singers will be going up to Cloverdale, about two hours north of San Francisco, to sing in the Church of Heaven on Probation. This church was built in 1886 by a religious community centered around the charismatic figure of one Emily Preston.
Singers who have been to this church said it’s a wonderful place to sing, but I won’t be able to go because I have to be at my own church. So I decided to write a tune called “The Church of Heaven on Probation.” For the poetry, I found some excerpts from Emily Preston’s writings and adapted them into Common Meter. From what little I have been able to learn about Preston, her religious ideas strike me as being a little offbeat, what you might call American folk religion. So I wrote a folk-like tune with simple harmonization.
I presented this tune at the San Francisco monthly singing this afternoon. Even though close to half the singers were relatively new, the class gave a lovely reading of the tune. I have to admit that neither poetry nor music is particularly profound, but the singers seemed to have fun with it: