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All-day singings & conventions

All California Convention 2018

A very strong class kept the singing strong all day long on both days, starting strong with the first song and continuing without losing any energy through the very last note.

Alas, my camera battery died after only a couple of videos and photos. Here’s a short video of Shelley leading 126 Babel’s Streams:

And here’s my favorite photo of the day — Ayla, Gwendolyn, Jeremy, and Nadia leading 188 together:

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All-day singings & conventions

Alaska Sacred Harp Convention 2017

The 10th annual Alaska Sacred Harp Convention was even more amazing than we had been led to believe.

The Alaska singers, under the leadership of Kari Lundgren, found the best place for us to watch the Alaska Day parade, they took us hiking in the hills, and they took us whale watching out on the bay. The Sitka singers even provided housing for the week — we filled the Sitka youth hostel, and it was great fun to sit up to all hours talking with Sacred Harp singers from up and down the Pacific coast.

There was singing every day in a variety of locales: we sang in a bar (the owners asked us to), in a restaurant, on a public radio show, at a brewfest on the celebration of Alaska Day, at a singing school led by Beverly Coates, in front of a waterfall while hiking. Here’s a photo of us getting ready to sing in front of the waterfall:

The convention itself was delightful. The food at dinner-on-the-grounds was fantastic — moussaka made with moose, herring roe salad, salmon jerky, beach asparagus salad, moose lasagna, local shrimp. The local singers were unbelievably friendly and welcoming. Carol and I particularly enjoyed the local Sitka singing on Sunday afternoon after the convention; I was particularly impressed by the several children who were already pretty good singers.

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All-day singings & conventions

312b Restoration

Inder leading 312b Restoration at the Palo Alto All Day singing. It was well over ninety degrees at this point in the day, but what struck me is how much fun everyone is having.

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All-day singings & conventions

Palo Alto All Day singing, 2017

A good singing again this year in Palo Alto. We had more than 50 singers, and nearly all of them came from northern California. I’ve decided that this singing best captures the sound of Bay Area singing, because it’s mostly just us — people we’ve been singing with and whose voices we know well. I realized that I’ve come to think of this as my home singing.

It got really hot today. The temperature in the singing room was up over 95 degrees, and we actually had to end a little early because it was so hot. This was the view from the back bench of the basses:

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All-day singings & conventions

Golden Gate All Day Singing 2017

The view from the arranging table at today’s Golden Gate All Day singing. Look at all those Pacific Northwest singers — how cool is that?

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All-day singings & conventions

564 Zion

David from Seattle leading 564 Zion. This video was taken at the Dominic Ciavonne Ziegler Memorial Singing on New year’s Day. Yes, it took me three months to get around to posting this video online; what can I say, I’ve been busy.

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All-day singings & conventions

Seattle Convention 2017

Another wonderful Seattle convention. Carol and I have managed to make it to this convention nearly every year for the past five years or so. As usual, the singing was superb; not only does Seattle have a core of talented and powerful singers, Portland is close by with another pool of amazing singers. Best of all, the singers are so friendly.

The singing was so good I mostly forgot to take photos. Then when I did try to take some candid photos of the tenors, Clarissa caught me in the act:

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All-day singings & conventions

Santa Cruz All Day singing

The Santa Cruz All Day singing was simply delightful. It was a relatively small singing — the greatest number of singers I counted in the room at any one time was 35 — but the room was just right for the size of the group, and there were fabulous singers on every bench.

Some tunes just sound better with a smaller group. I led 504 “Wood Street,” and this was the best I’ve ever heard it: you could hear every part very distinctly and I was able to push the tempo to be a little faster than usual without it sounding in the least muddy. Now “Wood Street” also sounds great in a large group, but the clarity of singing that comes with a small group — more precise timing, more accuracy in tuning chords, more distinct enunciation — made it sound exceptionally good.

After the singing, there were walks on the beach, and then we went back to Ed’s house for some more singing. We sang from the Shenandoah Harmony; we had at least one good sight-singer on each part, so we were able to tackle some challenging tunes. There were some magical moments; our rendering of William Billings’ “Warren” was, I felt, not only accurate but quite tuneful. There were also one or two train wrecks, as you’d expect, but only one or two.

This was my first extended time singing from the Shenandoah Harmony: an hour during the all-day singing, and an hour with a small group after the main singing. There are many things I really like about the Shenandoah Harmony. It includes some of the best tunes from other modern tunebooks, like Billings’ “Brookfield” (also in the Norumbega Harmony), and “Captain Kidd” (in the Social Harp). It includes plenty of material from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which are my favorite eras in the shape note tradition. It has many interesting tunes.

There are also things I find less interesting: William Walker’s “Friendship” is better in his three-part version, with the crunchy tri-tones and weird spare harmony; the back-to-back fermatas used in transcribing “Symyadda” don’t quite capture the feel of the tune for me. But I can understand the reasoning behind these decisions: altos like to have four-part tunes and it’s just about impossible to write a good alto part for “Friendship” (I’ve tried); and transcriptions are difficult — even Ruth Crawford Seeger got in trouble with her overly accurate transcriptions of field recordings (so accurate only trained musicians could perform some of them), which may simply mean that some music has to be learned by ear.

Summing up the Santa Cruz All Day Singing:

Approximately 40 singers came through during the course of the day. 25 singers led 86 tunes. Every single singer was from northern California. When we got home, Carol looked at me and said, “You look ten years younger. That singing was good for you.”

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Above: The alto bench mid-morning.

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Above: Carolyn bringing in the altos.

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All-day singings & conventions

564 Zion

Mark leading 564 Zion from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp, at the 5th annual Palo Alto All Day Singing, August 27, 2016.

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All-day singings & conventions

155 Northfield

155 Northfield from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp, at the 5th annual Palo Alto All Day Singing, August 27, 2016.