Reflections on singing


I love “I’m on My Journey Home,” written in 1859 by Sarah Lancaster. Originally written as a three-part tune, the versions in the Denson book (345b) and the Cooper book (207t) each added different alto parts. The Denson book’s alto line is adequate, but it’s not a standout.

The Cooper book’s alto part, written by Belle Spivey in 1902, is much more exciting. Spivey daringly adds several crunchy dissonant intervals between the altos and some of the other parts (major seconds if singing in the same octave, ninths if in different octaves). If you ignore Lancaster’s treble part and just sing the tenor, bass, and Spivey’s alto line all in the same range, it’s a haunting sound. Like this:

“I’m on My Journey Home,” Cooper book 207t, minus treble part

Not a polished recording — pretty much everything was done in one take — but good enough to give the idea of the sound.

Reflections on singing

Singing four part harmony at home

At the moment it doesn’t feel safe enough for me to sing in-person and indoors. It’s not just COVID. It’s also a very bad flu season, and RSV is a serious problem as well. I’m vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, so it’s safest for me to not sing in groups.

But I really miss four part singing. So I’ve been singing with myself, using GarageBand to record the four different vocal parts. When singing Sacred Harp, the tenor and treble parts may be sung in the lower (men’s) octave, but the alto should always be sung in the upper (women’s) octave. However, one of my vocal problems is serious difficulty singing in the falsetto range, which means I have to sing the alto part in the lower octave. Yet it turns out that many Sacred Harp tunes sound pretty good even with all the parts sung in the same octave.

In addition to singing traditional Sacred Harp tunes, I also sang a tune I wrote, “I Will Go on My Way.” Not that you need to hear me singing, but here’s a recording:

“I Will Go on My Way”