Tonight someone stood up and called 440 “North Salem.” The four of us on the front bench of the bass section opened our books to that page. Next to me, Jeremy said in an undertone, “It should be in A.”
I looked at the tune, which is in E minor. I tried to figure out what Jeremy meant. I knew that Idumea, which is notated in the key of A minor, is actually sung in E minor on the field recording of the 1968 Lookout Mountain Convention; I looked at “North Salem” and thought that if it were pitched down a fourth from A minor, it would be singable but probably too low. “What do you m—” I began.
“440. It should be A,” said Jeremy.
The terrible joke suddenly burst in on me: standard concert pitch sets the frequency of A above middle C at 440 Hertz. “Not if it were Baroque,” I shot back, “then it would be 415.”
Fortunately, David began to pitch the song, so we had to shut up.