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Online singing

Jamulus singing

A bit of a rocky night.

Mark kept getting kicked off the session, and David had family matters to attend to, so our regular keyers were out of action. We encouraged everyone to key their own tunes, and I filled in where I could — all of which meant the keying was not as consistent as usual. (I suppose I should just bite the bullet and hone my keying skills, but I’d rather not have to concentrate that much; this is supposed to be a hobby for me, and hobbies are supposed to be fun.)

We also had a couple of singers with big latency, on the order of 90 ms. That can work, but it’s super difficult; we weren’t quite up to the challenge tonight, and tempos kept lagging. Not only that, but sometimes some singers would be off by as much as an entire measure; that, of course, affected pitch. In addition, a couple of singers seemed to have a lot of noise on their connection, so sound quality wasn’t always that great.

Yet even with all the problems, there were good moments, too. This always happens when you’re making music: sometimes everything seems to go wrong, yet then out of nowhere there will be a moment of beauty to make it all worth while.

Categories
Online singing

BASH Zoom singing

We had a good turnout on tonight’s Zoom singing: I counted 30 people on about 24 log-ins, from five U.S. states and one foreign country. The foreign country was Turkey, where former stalwart Bay Area Sacred Harp singer Yuka has moved, and it was very good to see her again.

Leigh has gotten really good at using Mark’s Web app to find field recordings for us to sing to, and a couple of times she found a field recording led by the person who chose the tune.

Leigh has gotten so good — and it’s so interesting to hear the different field recordings — that most people let her find the song. But Paul and Lorraine and their children Sarah and John sang all four parts of the tune they chose. I have to admit I got a little choked up listening to them — it seems like it’s been a long time since I heard them singing together like that at one of our local Palo Alto singings.

All in all, it was a good evening. If you had told me eight months ago that I would find it satisfying to be on a Zoom call with 30 other people and sing along to a field recording, I’d have said you were nuts. But seeing all those other singers, and chatting during the break, was a big improvement over the usual COVID isolation. Also, I have to admit I find it hard to motivate myself to sing much at all any more, but this gets me singing — and of course once I sing I feel so much better, and resolve to sing all the time, and never do.

Categories
Online singing

Jamulus singing

A somewhat smaller group this time, with some excellent singers. We had a rocky first half hour, then we seemed to get into a groove.

We were doing well enough that I decided to take a chance and when it was my turn started us off on Worcester by Abraham Wood, one of my favorite First New England School tunes. It went surprisingly well. It probably helped that I was leading the tune as well as singing bass, because the bass line really drives the whole piece so I could set the tempo just by singing (it also helped that Jerry, an excellent musician with rock-solid time, was also singing bass). It also helped that I chose a moderate tempo, about 112 b.p.m.

Jerry then led Billings’ Easter Anthem. Here again, the bass line can drive the whole piece. He started us at about 120 b.p.m., and when all four parts came in the tempo would gradually slow to maybe 112, but then in the duets or bass solos, Jerry could pick up the tempo again. Interestingly, the recitatif at measure mm. 77-81 seemed to me to stay at tempo without slowing noticeably.

There were lots of other successes tonight as well — those two just happen to stand out for me. It was really the best music making I’ve yet done online.

Categories
Online singing

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.

Categories
Online singing

BASH Zoom singing

When we were singing in person, pre-pandemic, we used to say, “That was a good singing”; by which we meant, the singing was heartfelt, there were strong leaders, the selection of tunes was sensitive to the singers. So what criteria do we use to judge a Zoom singing, where mostly we listen to a recording and sing along?

Pat challenged us tonight by pointing out that in other Zoom Sacred Harp singings, most of the songs are led by someone in the group singing their part as a solo. Traditionally, if you lead a Sacred Harp tune, you’re supposed to sing tenor, but Pat said that is not true in Zoom singings. He went on to add that singing along to something other than the tenor part has been a way for him to better hear how his part (he sings tenor) meshes with another individual voice.

A couple of our singers took Pat’s challenge, and led tunes by singing their part solo. I was especially impressed with Lena’s singing: it was heartfelt, it was easy to follow her while singing my part, and the tune she chose was sensitive to the other singers. On that basis, I can say that tonight’s singing was indeed a good singing.

Categories
Online singing

Jamulus singing

My work schedule finally allowed me to join the regular twice-monthly Bay Area Sacred Harp Jamulus singing.

There were about 15 log-ins, and three of those log-ins had more than one person singing. So we may have had twenty total humans singing together. We had one singer log in from Kansas, and his total latency as reported in Jamulus was about 74 ms; I did not notice that he slowed us down. Another singer logged in from San Diego, and I’m not sure what his latency was. But most of us had latencies in the range of 30-50 ms. This tended to keep tempos slower than usual.

Singing using Jamulus is getting easier. I’ve gotten used to the lack of visual cues; it’s still annoying, but it’s no longer disconcerting. I’m better able to judge how to stay on tempo: it’s a fine line to walk because on the one hand you need to have rock-solid time and stick with that time no matter what, but you also have to listen carefully in case the overall group is slowing down, in which case you have to adjust your internal metronome.

However, I still get tripped up by things. For example, this time I thought I was watching my volume level on the Jamulus controls, but at one point when I had to look down at the music, I unconsciously raised my volume enough to push my audio feed into the red zone. Jamulus has no room for error — you go into the red zone, your audio feed sounds horrible, and all the other singers have to mute you. I adjusted my mic volume down, and that solved the problem. And it wasn’t just me — another singer had the same problem.

I also wonder what will happen when we try music we don’t know well. So far, we’ve been sticking to tunes that all of us know well. When we start learning new tunes, for example some of the new music in the Shenandoah Harmony, will it just turn into chaos?

Nevertheless, singing with other people in real time — even in not in person — was enormously uplifting. The pandemic can really get you down, and this singing was a good antidote to that.

Categories
All-day singings & conventions

70b Save Mighty Lord

One last video from old footage I found. Here’s Wren leading 70b Save Mighty Lord from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp, at the 5th annual Palo Alto All Day Singing, August 26, 2017. Temps were well above 90 in the room, so you’ll hear some fan noise. You’ll also get to hear some of Steve Helwig’s trademark humor (if you didn’t know Steve, he’s the one on the front tenor bench who’s pitching).

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All-day singings & conventions Online singing

Palo Alto All Day, online version

This would have been the weekend of the annual Palo Alto All Day singing. We decided to hold a two hour online version yesterday, with two times for socializing in breakout rooms (do we call those recesses? or what?). The best part for me was the chance to talk with singers I haven’t seen for too many months.

Terry M. kept minutes (if you can keep minutes for an online singing). Here they are:

Jeannette Ralston 46; Dan Harper 38b; Marci Cutler 65; Leigh Cooper 189; Ginny Landgraf 378b; Peter Ross 122; Julia Smith 159; Kate Fine 187; Esther ? 214; Constance BoneĀ 261t (CH); Erin Fulton 172; Ann Riley 383; James Solheim 318; Clarissa Fetrow 154; Pat Coghlan 272; Aisha Morgan 495; Marci Cutler 140b (ShH); Jeannette Ralston 264b (ShH); Jenny Solheim 421; Don Fasolaman 77b; Ginny Landgraf 254 (ShH); Melissa Stevenson 179; Sue Lindner 216; Bonnie Stimler 384; Bonnie Stimler 454; ? ? 521; Memorial lesson; Dan Harper 347.

Categories
All-day singings & conventions

278b Traveling Pilgrim

Another video from old previously unedited video footage I found. Here’s Ed leading 278b Traveling Pilgrim from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp, at the 5th annual Palo Alto All Day Singing, August 27, 2016:

Categories
All-day singings & conventions

229 Irwinton

I found some old unedited video footage of past Palo Alto All Day singings. Here’s Chris leading 229 Irwinton from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp, at the 5th annual Palo Alto All Day Singing, August 27, 2016: