There were a good number of us singing today, even though it was two days after Christmas. We had one singer join us who usually can’t sing Monday nights because he sings with a choir that rehearses on Monday nights. One of the things I love about our Sacred Harp group is that we sing every Monday night, no matter what. I’ve been in choirs that don’t sing in the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, that take the summers off, etc. I don’t want to take weeks off; I like to sing every week; actually, I have an almost physical need to sing every week.
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific allows our Sacred Harp group to use their chapel for no charge. But we try to give them a donation at the end of each calendar year as an expression of our gratitude for welcoming us into such a beautiful singing space. I agreed to take on raising the money this year. Last week’s class, which was somewhat smaller than usual, contributed $94; this week’s class, which was large for us (about 27 people, by my rough count), with quite a few people who weren’t present last week, contributed $221; notification via email brought about $50 of promised contributions. As of now, total contribution from our Sacred Harp community will be $365.
What I liked best about our community’s contribution is that those of us who could give more did so; those who couldn’t afford to give much (grad students, underemployed or unemployed people) gave nothing or a token amount. We are not like some choirs I’ve belonged to, where you have to pay a set amount to attend rehearsals; Sacred Harp singers want everyone to sing, no matter what their financial status. For me, this is another example of the truly inclusive spirit of Sacred Harp singing.
For the first 45 minutes of tonight’s singing, there were no altos. We had close to 20 singers, so it’s not like there was a light turnout; it was just one of those quirks of fate that no altos showed up. It was interesting to hear four-part songs without an alto part: some songs sounded empty, some sounded more Sacred-Harp-y.
I got to thinking: wouldn’t it be fun to sing to think of songs in the book that were originally written without an alto part? But what were they? I tried to sing while madly paging through the index. Distress — wasn’t Distress originally written with only three parts? I couldn’t remember. But Devotion, I was quite sure Devotion appeared in William Walker’s Southern Harmony with only three parts. But was that the first time Devotion appeared in print? I thought it probably was.
I was all ready to lead Devotion. But then one of our best alto singers arrived, 45 minutes late. When my turn arrived to lead a song, I passed.
Replaces a post that disappeared during problems with my Web hosting service.
Another of the songs I presented this evening during the “other book” singing in Berkeley. Although there are Christmas songs in The Sacred Harp, there aren’t really any Advent songs; this is my attempt to write an Advent song. The text is Mark 1.2-3 from the King James version of the Bible. Although Isaiah 40 might seem to make more sense as a text for Advent, the prose in the KJV translation of Mark 1.2-3 was just too perfect to pass up, and preachers are wont to use bits of Mark 1 as texts during Advent (for churches that use the lectionary, Mark 1.1-8 is the gospel reading for the second Sunday in advent in lectionary year B). On the whole, the singing went pretty well. However, I had hoped that the singers would hit the block chords in measures 12-13 with more volume, and the fuguing section at the end (mm. 14 ff.) didn’t have quite the rhythmic drive that I was aiming for, so I may wind up doing some revision.
[Sheet music removed; a revised version of this tune was published in an issue of The Trumpet.]