A smaller number of singers turned out this week than did last week, perhaps twenty at the peak; and quite a few people left after the break, leaving us with 5 basses, 3 altos, 2 trebles (both men), and 6 tenors. Interestingly, I felt the singing got better after the break: you could hear each part clearly, and people were obviously listening to each other and not just singing as loud as possible.
During the break, I said to Hugh that I thought he was a good influence on the Berkeley singing. He asked, How so? I said that I noticed we had been singing at somewhat slower tempos than the usual breakneck Berkeley tempo, which I thought was doing us some good, and I attributed that in part to the influence of his Mississippi style. He said that while we weren’t quite singing at a Mississippi pace, he too had noticed that we weren’t singing every tune as fast as usual.
Mind you, I enjoy singing Sacred Harp tunes at breakneck speeds. When it is done well, singing Sacred Harp fast and loud gives me all the thrills of the 1949 recording of Flatt and Scruggs playing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” — unbelievably fast and incredibly precise. Except sometimes we sound less like Flatt and Scruggs and more like SS Decontrol — loud and fast and exciting, but not what you’d call tuneful or intelligible; and as much as I like hardcore, I think when I’m singing Sacred Harp I’d rather sound like Flatt and Scruggs.
In any case, after the break tonight we sang a number of tunes at a nice moderate tempo. You could hear that we were listening to each other more. This is a good thing to do in a practice singing: learn how the tunes sound, learn how to sing them with precision. And then when we have an all-day singing, and Mark comes back down from Vancouver to sing with us, he can lead 217 at a breakneck speed, and we’ll sing it with all the precision of Flatt and Scruggs.