We had an even dozen singers at the second Sunday Palo Alto singing today: three basses, two altos, two trebles, and the rest tenors. It was a nice mix of voices, and I thought the singing was pretty good; some of us were hampered, however, by extraordinarily thick pollen; I think both Arnold and I got it the worst, but I heard some scratchiness in some other voices as well.
After the singing, Lindy, who is charing next year’s Golden Gate singing, told us that she has started an online survey to find out more about what people want and need for singing. What was more important than the survey, though, was that she has been getting around to the three regular Bay Area singings, and the local singing in Healdsburg. The Bay Area Sacred Harp singing scene has always felt fragmented to me, and it’s nice that the incoming chair of the biggest Bay Area all-day singing is making such an effort to reach out to singers throughout the Bay Area.
I’m not sure why the Bay Area Sacred Harp scene feels fragmented. At first glance, you’d think we should be quite unified: several of us make an effort to get to all the local singings as often as we can, and most of us get to all-day singings whenever we can. But it does feel fragmented. Partly it’s because of the geography and the traffic — getting from the Peninsula to the East Bay, and from the East Bay to San Francisco, means crossing the bay on one of a few heavily traveled roads.
My guess is that another part of the reason we’re so fragmented is that we don’t have enough all-day singings. The distance from Healdsburg to Palo Alto is the same as the distance from Boston to Northhampton. In the area around Boston and Northhampton in any given year, you’ll find half a dozen all-day singings and at least one convention or maybe two. In the Bay Area, by contrast, we have just two all-day singings, and a convention only once every three years. Conventions and all-day singings build enthusiasm; they draw in new singers; they make existing singers sing better; but most of all they draw people together.
I do have to admit that my judgment may be clouded on this topic. Because of my job, I can rarely travel to other regions to go to all-day singings and conventions. I would love to see three or four smaller all-day singings in addition to the Golden Gate All-Day singing — plus an annual Bay Area Convention. And no, that’s not too ambitious — I know from my time singing in the Boston area that it’s well within the realm of possibility.