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Jamulus singing

Bay Area Jamulus singings from the Denson book were initially scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays. The BASH Board decided we’d sing from the Shenandoah Harmony on fifth Wednesdays.

Jerry came prepared with a list of tunes he wanted to sing — most of which were by First New England School composers like Abraham Wood , Jeremiah Ingalls, and Billings. I love First New England School music, so I was a happy camper. (Also, while the Shenandoah Harmony, like any collection, contains a fair number of duds, I feel that the editors did their best work with the 18th century music.)

Most of us were seeing all this music for the first time, and sight-singing together on Jamulus was a bit challenging. We finally got into a pattern that worked: whoever was leading the tune would count in two full measures at their preferred tempo. It was a forgiving group, and everyone was ready to start over if started to sound like a train wreck. Singing on Jamulus forces you to really listen to the other parts — you can’t fall back on watching someone keeping tempo, or pointing to you to bring in your part. That there were only seven singers probably helped with our sight-singing; Jamulus can sound a little chaotic until you adjust the volume of each individual singer, and with only seven singers adjusting volume was easy.

I feel that singing on Jamulus revealed something of the “singability” of the compositions. First New England School music can be challenging, but it is eminently singable: the music fits comfortably to singers’ voices; Johann Fux would have approved. Some of the recent compositions, while good as music, feel less singable to me; but this isn’t a hard and fast rule, for when we sang Neely Bruce’s 1990 tune Millbrook, I felt the bass part (at least) was quite singable.

For the last half hour, we switched back to the Denson book, and sang some familiar tunes. It was tiring to sight-sing for an hour and a half, and it was good to end with music we all knew well.

All in all, this was a good singing. There were the usual technical problems: Mark got kicked off the session and couldn’t rejoin; Carla tried to log in and wasn’t able to. But overall, a good two hours of music-making.

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