Singing at home

Like a singing school

Nine of us showed up this afternoon for a three-hour post-all-day-singing singing: one treble, two tenors, four basses, and three altos. Even though eight of us had been at the all-day singing yesterday, today’s class sang well.

We spent some time working on a number of tunes, such as no. 372 Rockport: we sang through the notes twice until we really got every note right, then sang the words. Jeff said that he had been told that this was one of the more difficult tunes in the 1991 Denson book; singing it as well as we did made us feel like we had accomplished something.

We also worked through no. 292 Behold the Savior, a tune composed by Paine Denson in 1935. This is another challenging tune where we sang the notes twice, and I can’t say that we got all the notes right every time, but I think we got every note right at least once. We talked a little about the syncopated bass line in mm. 16-18, and how that must have been influenced by 1930s jazz.

Another tune we worked through pretty carefully was no. 320 Funeral Anthem. Getting the pitches right is relatively easy on this tune, but getting all the changes of time signature is more challenging. Again, we sang through it twice, both notes and words, and by the second time through it sounded smooth and natural — the way Billings intended it, I think, mimicking the rhythms of natural speech.

We challenged ourselves as a class. It’s fairly easy to fudge when you’re singing Sacred Harp: sing loud, throw in some slides and other ornamentation, sing fast, and you can cover up imprecise intonation. But we didn’t let ourselves fudge anything. And it was fun taking it slow and getting it right. At the end, Sue said that this had been like a singing school. She’s right. I now feel much more confident with several difficult tunes.

At the end of the singing, I talked briefly with Linda about the differences between the Berkeley weekly singing and the Palo Alto singing. I said I thought that in the Berkeley weekly singing, we tend to emphasize learning how to lead, especially learning how to beat time so that you communicate well with the class; while in Palo Alto, we tend to emphasize getting pitch, rhythm, and even enunciation right. Whatever the specific differences might be, Linda agreed that these two practice singings do have a different feel to them.

Oh, and we had root beer floats and yummy sweet oat bar for snack.