Above is Linda leading mid-morning. In a week, she’s leaving for Evanston, Ill., for graduate study. She will leave a big hole in the Bay Area Sacred Harp community, both musically and personally. Linda started singing Sacred Harp with the now-defunct East Bay monthly singing, more than a decade ago.
Here’s Julian, our arranging committee, leading just before lunch. At least one person in this photo began singing Sacred Harp in Palo Alto in the early 1970s — can you figure out who it is?
Janet leading — or, as I like to call her, Dr. Janet, since she wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on California Sacred Harp singing. Behind her is perhaps the best alto bench of the whole day.
What we really go to singings for….
…dinner-on-the-grounds. The weather was absolutely perfect. Last week we had triple-digit temperatures and lots of air pollution, but today was about 80 degrees with a cool fresh breeze from the north.
After the singing, we went to the Saturday night social in Sue’s garden. Carol and I left at quarter past seven and they were still going strong. Some of the best singing of the day started at about six thirty, when Sue, Terry, Jeannette, Phil, Carol, Jeff, and I sat around in Sue’s music room to run through a few tunes that didn’t get sung during the all-day singing.
Why was it some of the best singing of the day? Five of us have sung together on a regular basis for a number of years, and know each other’s voices and know how we like to sing various tunes (and the other two singers were willing to fit into the way we sang), so we could just sing. There’s something about singing with people you know well — you not only sing together, you breathe together and sing as if you’re one organism. I’ve experienced this at one or two small Southern singings, but here in the Bay Area I think we’re too much of a transient population to have singing like that develop at an all-day singing; in the years it would take to know one another at that level through an all-day singing, half the singers have moved away. So instead we get little moments of such singing, as happened tonight when a few of us who knew each other’s voices well happened to be in the same room at the same time.
None of this is meant to put down the Palo Alto All-day Singing. It was a really good singing. Right after lunch, I counted fifty singers in the room at the same time, and I think we had about 60 singers total throughout the day. That’s a nice sized singing: big enough that you’re supported by your section, but small enough that you can actually hear everyone in the room. I really liked the fact that this singing felt like a family affair, with ten different children from four different families, and several of the children sang with us, or even led tunes. And of course the food was fantastic.
As much as I like singing in small groups, like at tonight’s social, I’m also an advocate for starting more all-day singings in the Bay Area. Right now, we have four regular all-day singings — the Ziegler Memorial on New Year’s Day, the Golden Gate in April, the Santa Cruz singing in July, and the Palo Alto singing in August. The Golden Gate is our big all-day singing, with over a hundred people and lots of out-of-town singers; the rest of our singings draw 40-60 singers, most of whom live in northern California.
Now I’m trying to convince the singers in the Central Valley that they should start an all-day singing. Let’s face it, what we all like best is singing at the all-day singings and conventions; this is what energizes us, and keeps us connected with the core of the Sacred Harp tradition. If you can’t travel to all-day singings in other parts of the country — and many of us can’t for one reason or another — what you need are more all-day singings near where you live.