Carol and I headed over to the Berkeley weekly singing tonight, for a third day in a row of singing. It was a smaller turnout than usual; I counted fourteen people at one point. The singing was very good, in the best tradition of the Berkeley weekly singing: fast, loud (but not too loud), and pitched a bit high. And while we did get a little screechy a couple of times, mostly we were very much in tune with each other.
After hearing 268 David’s Lamentation sung quite slowly at yesterday’s Healdsburg singing, I decided to lead it at a fairly quick tempo. I was thinking of a field recording I got a few years ago from Hal Eisen, which was only identified as being by “Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention”; in this recording the singers used a tempo of about 116 beats per minute. (Note that William Billings, the composer of David’s Lamentation, specified that 2/4 time should be sung at 120 beats per minute.) Berkeley singers like to sing fast, and tonight we sang it at about 120 beats per minute; furthermore, the class sang it the way I like best, with a bit of a swing to it. Sung at the slow tempo, you can sense King David’s sadness at the death of Absalom; but at the quicker tempo, I get more of a sense of the sharp urgency and complexity of David’s grief.