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:

Shepherd of Tender Youth

At the social after the Palo Alto All-Day Singing, several singers were willing to read through a couple of new tunes I had written. This was one of them. The best part is when the various parts enter for the fuguing section: in the first and second measures of the second system, the whole thing feels like it accelerates. Fun to sing.

Shepherd of Tender Youth 6.6.4. 6.6.4.

Caroline leading 324 in 2013

Caroline Bonnet leading no. 324 from The Sacred Harp (1991 Denson edition), at the 2013 Palo Alto All-Day Singing. When Caroline brings ’em for that last chorus, the class gives her their best singing yet.

In memory of Caroline Bonnet, who March 8, 2015. Caroline was a fine singer, and a tireless advocate for Sacred Harp singing in the North Bay who helped found the Healdsburg monthly singing, and start the Ziegler Memorial Singing.

(Background info: I found some unprocessed video footage from the 2013 Palo Alto All-Day Singing that I had abandoned because the audio was inadequate. However, recently I found I was able to adjust the audio of some of the footage so that it sounds reasonably good, and fortunately this footage of Caroline was in that category.)

Palo Alto All-day Singing, 2015

PAAD 2015, Linda leading

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.


PAAD 2015, Julian leading

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.


PAAD 2015, Kitchen

What we really go to singings for….


PAAD 2015, Dinner on the grounds

…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.

Palo Alto All-day Singing

A quick post on the Palo Alto All-day Singing before I head off to the Saturday night social. We had 57 singers, and we sang 93 tunes. Carol and I were in charge of the kitchen this year, my new favorite all-day singing job. I for got to take any photos, but Carol remembered. Here are some of her photos of people lining up for dinner: