All-day singings & conventions

Greg leading no. 542 I’ll Seek His Blessings

Another quick video.

All-day singings & conventions

Janet and Taidgh lead 312b Restoration

Janet and Taidgh lead no. 312b Restoration at the 2012 Palo Alto All-Day Singing. (Start them young learning how to beat time in four!)

Lots more video from the all-day singing coming Real Soon Now.

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.

All-day singings & conventions

A good all-day singing

The first annual Palo Alto All-Day singing took place today. It was a very good class in a good singing room, and we sounded fantastic. At a moment of peak attendance, I counted 60 people in the room. All told, I’d guess we had 75 people during the course of the day, including two babies, and four children — the range of ages stretched from 3 months to 90+.

Highlights of the day:

— Dinner-on-the-grounds was incredible: what an amazing array of yummy food! We all ate until we were ready to burst, and there was still lots of food left over. That’s the way it should be.

— Chris Thorman stood up and talked a little about the history of the Palo Alto Sacred Harp singers, which goes back into the 1970s. He asked some of the singers who were there in the early days to stand up.

— Erica leading 448t Consecration towards the end of the day. When she was done, Hal and I looked at each other and just smiled. It was a transcendent moment.

Thank you to everyone who made the singing a success. Sounds like we’ll be doing it again next year!

All-day singings & conventions

Update: Palo Alto All-day singing

Don’t forget the Palo Alto All-day Singing this Saturday, August 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston Rd., Palo Alto. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. Complete information, including directions for cars and bikes using public transit, here.

Saturday night social, 5-7 p.m.: We’ll meet at Don’s house near University Ave. in Palo Alto. We’ll have directions at the all-day singing. There will be an arts fair on University Ave. that day, so after the social you can check that out and then eat dinner at one of the many restaurants.

Friday night social, 7:15 p.m. on August 24: Meet at the Unitarian Universalist Church parking lot. We’ll park there and walk across the street to Green Elephant for Chinese food ($10-15), then to Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream for dessert.

Sunday singing from 2-5 p.m., on August 26: Come to Room 1 at the Unitarian Universalist Church to sing some more. Singing will start promptly at 2, with time for socializing and potluck snacks afterwards. (I’ll be bringing root beer floats.) There will be at least one out-of-state singer joining us, so please come for singing and socializing!

And real die-hards will also come to the weekly Monday singing in Berkeley at 7:30, August 27.

Note to drivers:

PG&E is doing major construction on Charleston Rd. from the UU church to Alma. If you come from Highway 101, you’ll miss it completely — Charleston Rd. is fine from Middlefield to the UU church. But if you’re coming from across Palo Alto, avoid potentially long delays and come from the Middlefield Rd. side.

Singing at home


I went to the weekly Berkeley singing, but only spent forty-five minutes singing, and left at the break — my allergies were acting up, and I could feel it in my voice.

It was a small singing, with less than a dozen regular singers — and four brand-new singers. Wish I could have stayed, but there’s no sense in ruining my voice.

Singing at home


The singers of the second Sunday Palo Alto singing allowed me to present a couple of new tunes today. Here’s the first one:

Sunnyvale. 7s.

This proved to be a little challenging to sight-sing, which I had expected. Although the melody lines of each part are pretty straightforward, the tempo changes and tied notes complicate matters. I know I made several mistakes. But by the end of the four verses we sang, we got pretty good. This was fun to sing, and worth singing again.

Other local singings

New Hundred Forty-eighth

The second of two tunes I presented at today’s second Sunday Palo Alto singing:

New Hundred Forty-eighth.

The class sang this tune well, even though it’s challenging to sight-sing — there are lots of notes to sing, and each part does a few unexpected things. Not only that, but the tune should go pretty quickly (quarter note equals 120-144 b.p.m.). So we sang through the shapes twice, and by the last time, the class gave a very nice reading. I felt this tune would be worth singing again: after a few repetitions, a class could get the tempo up even more, which would be a lot of fun.

Notes: Peter asked about the unusual metric indication; the “D” means “doubled.” Melody inspired by Julia Wolfe’s “Steel Hammer.”

Singing at home

Other book singing

We had two new tunes at tonight’s Other Book singing. Gabriel’s tune, the first Sacred Harp tune he’s written (though he’s written other music) was great fun to sing; each part was a good melody on its own, but there were some very interesting harmonies between the parts. And Will brought a new tune by Warren, a tune which is going to appear in the next issue of The Trumpet; it sounded like a camp-meeting tune, familiar enough to be easy to sing, but challenging enough to be lots of fun. (Alas, although I have three tunes written, my job has been crazy and I had no time to print out my tunes.)

The Other Book Singing went well, but when we got back to the Denson book, the singing quality went down. Usually we got the other way: lots of us are sight-singing during the Other Book Singing, and we sing better when we’re singing from familiar Denson book material. But tonight’s class kind of struggled with the Denson book tunes: we kept slowing down the tempo, and our intonation was sometimes way off (I heard minor seconds and even major seconds that were not written in the music). I began to think maybe we need to pay just as much attention to the familiar tunes as we do to the ones we are sight-singing! And this conclusion was confirmed when Joanne stood up to lead: she made a point that we should all take care to listen to each other, and for that one tune we sang very well; but then on the next tune we got sloppy again, and our intonation drifted way off.

The most transcendent moment came early in the singing, during the Other Book Singing. Will led “Nearer My God to Thee” from the Cooper book, at a very slow tempo: I’ve rarely heard the Berkeley group sound better.