Singing at home

More voices

A relatively big turnout this evening: before the break, there were perhaps a dozen tenors, five basses, six or seven altos, and half a dozen trebles (I say “perhaps” because several singers kept shuttling between the different sections). The singing was strong; it was fun to have that many people.

After the break, quite a few people had to go home, and our numbers dropped down to four or five in each section. It’s easier to hear individual voices with the smaller group, and easier to hear all the parts. The bigger the singing, the better the sound — no doubt about that. But as much as I prefer that bigger sound, my singing improves more when I sing in a smaller group: I can hear the other singers better, hear how my part interacts with the other voices, hear my own mistakes and hear the mistakes of others.

Other events

“Awake, My Soul”

City Church of San Francisco sponsored a showing of the Sacred Harp documentary “Awake My Soul” this evening (they showed the one-hour cut, not the full four-hour documentary). A good number of Bay Area Sacred Harp singers showed up. Matt and Erica Hinton were both present, and Matt Hinton answered questions from the audience after the film. One of our local singers asked Matt Hinton why the documentary focused on the big conventions, and Hinton gave several answers:– first, from a film maker’s point of view, local singings don’t film particularly well; then too, the sound produced by a big singing simply sounds better.

But the most interesting reason from my point of view is simply that Georgia, where the Hintons live and did much of the filming, is in the heartland of Sacred Harp singing where there is a convention within driving distance nearly every week of the year. He said that for those of us who live outside this heartland, a convention is a big deal that only we only get to experience a few times a year; thus for us, the local or practice singing looms large in importance. This is another way in which Sacred Harp singing of the urban revival outside the South winds up being a substantially different experience than traditional singing.

Reading list

Bylaws and tradition

We’ve been working on setting up Bay Area Sacred Harp as an unincorporated association; up until now, money for conventions and all-day singings got ran through checking accounts of an individual member of BASH, which is not an ideal situation for anyone. California state law allows for unincorporated associations — an easy and cheap way to set up a group entity that legally can have a bank account.

I was one of the people who helped draft the bylaws. We tried to balance the traditions of Sacred Harp singings against the need for fiscal and organizational protection. So, for example, most Sacred Harp business meetings take place during an all-day singing or convention, and everyone present is automatically a member. But what do you do if the organization needs to hold a special business meeting in between annual conventions? — an unlikely occurrence, but a possibility that should be allowed for. And how can you provide at least some protection from the possibility that unscrupulous people could take over control of the organization? — also unlikely but such takeovers have happened to other too-trusting nonprofits. I’m not sure we got the balance just right, but I do feel that managed to favor tradition to some extent over other considerations.

(Draft bylaws are online at the BASH Web site.)

Singing at home

More verses

For the past few days, “I’m on My Journey Home,” no. 345, has been running through my head. So of course I had to lead it tonight. The problem is that it is too short to be satisfying, even by including an unwritten repeat on the chorus. I wish more verses had been printed with it. “Journey Home,” no. 111, is the same poetry but with two additional verses; I have to wonder what prompted some editor to include three verses with one tune, and only two verses with the other tune.