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.”

Other local singings

In which I talk about the Palo Alto singing, and then digress at length

Ellen hosted the fourth Sunday singing at her house; her living room makes a very nice singing room. We wound up with thirteen singers: just two tenors and two trebles, four altos, and five basses. As much as I prefer the lower voices, we really were heavy on the basses and altos, and it could have been awkward. But it wasn’t awkward: the singers listened to each other, and responded to what they heard other singers doing. I suspect we were also aware that we had four relatively new singers, and it felt to me as though we were all making sure the newer singers could hear what was going on around them.

And now it’s time for a long digression:

Other local singings

A new local singing?

Four of us made the journey up to Healdsburg tonight to attend what seems to be the start of a new local singing. And the word “Journey” is an apt description of our trip: accidents, construction, and a winter storm with high winds and lots of rain backed up traffic around the Bay area; it took me two hours to get from San Mateo to Berkeley, so I was over an hour late picking up Carl, Gretchen, and Elizabeth; which meant we arrived in Healdsburg an hour late.

We walked in to the Felta School House in Healdsburg a little more than an hour late, and we were pleased to see that Terry, another regular with the Berkeley weekly singing, was already there. By this time, I had been driving for three hours, and I was ready to sing. The local singers were taking a break — they had already been singing for an hour — but they were all willing to start singing again.

Two things quickly became apparent. First, the Felta School House is a wonderful place in which to sing. The wood floors and wood walls made for a warm, resonant sound; the old-fashioned slate blackboards provided some additional brightness, and the ten-foot high ceilings kept the space from being too bright and too loud. Second, the local singers included some fine voices; if they keep it up, they could become a really fine local singing. We even sang the Easter Anthem — something of a challenge considering how many newcomers there were — and the class sounded very good indeed.

Other local singings

Norumbega Harmony

I’m in the Boston area for a visit, and stopped in to sing with Norumbega Harmony, one of the oldest local singings of the northern urban revival. Norumbega Harmony has a monthly open singing which is advertised to the public — but according to their Web site, their weekly singing is not advertised, and while new local singers are welcome to attend they ask for a somewhat serious commitment. Visiting singers are of course always welcome to drop in and sing.

This is perhaps the friendliest local singing I have yet attended. They all knew each other, and chatted among themselves between songs, but they made sure to include me in their conversations. They did introductions right after the singing started, which also felt very welcoming.

Norumbega Harmony sings from at least four different books: the Denson book, their own Norumbega Harmony, the Sacred Harper’s Companion (a collection of new tunes), and The Northern Harmony. Several of them also sing West Gallery music regularly — that’s an English predecessor to Sacred Harp music, and there’s regular West Gallery singing in the Boston area — and it wasn’t sung tonight, it was much talked about. And several of them had just been to the Jeremiah Ingalls singing in Vermont the previous weekend. So this was not your average Sacred Harp singing focused only on music from the Denson book.

In fact, we didn’t sing much, perhaps a quarter of the tunes, from the Denson book. Another quarter of the tunes came from The Northern Harmony, a third from Norumbega Harmony, and the rest from the Sacred Harper’s Companion. Nearly all the tunes were from the eighteenth century, the very early nineteenth century, or the late twentieth century. I recall one mid-twentieth century tune, nothing from the mid-to-let nineteenth century (except the one I led), and nothing from the twenty-first century.

Other local singings

San Francisco singing

I managed to make it to the new monthly singing in San Francisco this afternoon. The church that’s letting us sing (for free!) asked if we could participate in a short ceremony for peace in the neighborhood in the wake of a recent shooting a short distance from the church which resulted in the death of Parrish Broughton.

I didn’t get out of my church as quickly as I had hoped, so I arrived just after the Sacred Harp singers has sung Hallelujah. The indoor part of the ceremony was finished, and I got there just in time to join a processional down the street to where the shooting took place. This being an Episcopalian church, they knew how to do ritual — good vestments, really good incense, talking just enough but not too much — I felt honored to be a part of what they were doing.

We sang again when we got to the site of the shooting. A member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence did a nice ritual of creating a peaceful piece of spray-painted graffiti art on the pavement where the shooting took place. Someone from the neighborhood had brought some holy water, and asked the rector to sprinkle it, which he did, with a nice prayer. Then, somewhat to our surprise, we were asked to sing again. “Um, how about New Britain?” — upon seeing blank looks from the non-singers, “That’s what we call Amazing Grace.” We sang it. Everyone sang along. And the ceremony was done.

Back up at the church, we settled in to the hollow square. There were perhaps 25 singers at the peak of the afternoon, and the singing was really excellent; one of the best local singings I’ve ever attended.

Other local singings

San Francisco Sacred Harp goes monthly

This just in:

As promised, San Francisco Sacred Harp is moving to monthly, our first meeting is February 20.

Sunday, February 20, 2011
1:30 to 4:30
St Aidan’s Episcopal Church
101 Gold Mine Drive (x Diamond Heights Boulevard)
San Francisco, CA 94131

Public transportation: BART to Glen Park BART, 52 MUNI bus to the church.
For driving directions and additional public transportation see:
Parking in the Safeway parking lot is allowed.

Info: Julian Damashek at juliandamashek AT gmail DOT com

Hooray for Julian and Carolyn Deacy for getting San Francisco Sacred Harp up and running again after the loss of the long-term venue on Fair Oaks Street in San Francisco. It’s exciting that it’s going to be monthly now instead of quarterly. (Alas, I won’t be able to go, since I work on Sunday afternoons.)

Other local singings

Oldtown, San Diego, local singing

For the convenience of out-of-town singers attending the Jolly Memorial all-day singings, the time of the regular fourth Sunday local singing in San Diego was moved to the morning.

I arrived in the Oldtown neighborhood of San Diego at 9:30, half an hour before the singing was to start. There weren’t yet many tourists, and I wandered around the State Park for a few minutes before heading over the Adobe Chapel at ten of ten. A couple of the San Diego singers were already there, and greeted me cheerfully. Jerry and Carla Schreiber, clearly the central figures of San Diego local singings, showed up soon afterwards.

We waited for a good twenty minutes for someone from the Save Our Heritage Organization (the building’s owner) to come open the chapel for us; Jerry called two or three times to find out when they could send someone over. At last, we decided to start signing outdoors, and had just started singing the notes of Windham when the person with the key arrived an opened up the building.

Other local singings

“Norumbega Harmony” monthly singing

I had hoped to attend the open monthly singing of Norumbega Harmony today, but the demands of a professional conference kept me from attending. But I’ll record a few memories from the times I attended this singing in 2009.

Norumbega Harmony is an atypical local singing. The core group of singers meet weekly to sing together in an invitation-only singing, and once a month they host an open singing. They have a “singing master,” Stephen Marini, who founded the group in 1976 (prior to any contact with Southern singers) and continues to be a central force. They perform Sacred Harp music; they are not purely participatory. In addition to singing from the Denson revision of the Sacred Harp, they have long sung other material gleaned from old New England songbooks, and in 2003 finally published their own songbook.

What I noticed most in the three or four times that I came to one of their open singings was how friendly everyone was; it was the most welcoming local singing I have attended. Perhaps because the regular singers see each other every other week of the month, they are much more open to meeting and welcoming newcomers. (Indeed, the second time I attended with my friend Ted, who is an experienced singer with a full bass voice and the ability to sight-sing, we were invited to join the regular weekly group; I can see why Ted was invited, but that I was invited to join shows that it’s a pretty open group.) This was by far the friendliest New England singing I attended; it felt much like the friendliness and openness of the Boston-area folk music scene.

Other local singings

Dinkytown, Minneapolis, local singing

Carol and I are driving across the country, and I arranged the trip so we could stop in Minneapolis on the day that the University of Minnesota local weekly singing, in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis, was taking place. I found my way to University Baptist Church after a little bit of trouble (Google Maps told me to look on the wrong side of the street). As I walked up to the church building, a man sitting outside said, “Looking for the singing? Go through that door and follow the sound.”

I heard the singing before I got to the door, and wound my way up two flights of stairs. Even though there were only a dozen or so people, the volume was already quite high; in part because it was such a live room, but also this was clearly a bunch of high-volume singers. I took my accustomed place in the back bench of the bass section, and settled in for some good singing, for these singers were not just loud, they were fine singers.

Unlike our local singing in Berkeley where we go around the hollow square giving each person a chance to lead, at the Dinkytown singing people stand up to sing when they feel like it. This is what I was used to back east, and it’s much easier for newcomers and those of us who just don’t care to lead. I noticed that the songs we sang were ones with which I was mostly unfamiliar; most of the songs were from the mid-19th century, or from the late 20th century, with the exception of one by William Billings and one by Daniel Read.