Singing Judith Brock and Polly Gould

Aug 5, 2012 by

Click for PDF

A wonderful anecdote in this 1902 History of Newbury, Vermont (see embedded text below) gives the background on Jeremiah Ingalls’ song LAMENTATION (ShH 258), written for the death of young Judith Brock.

[BROCK], JUDITH, b. Aug 6, 1783; d. Jan 26, 1797. (The Abbott register says 1802). She was long remembered in Newbury. The editor well recollects hearing his grandfather, John Wells, ask one of his music loving associates, “Can you sing Judith Brock?” “No.” was the reply. “I can sing Polly Gould, but I can’t sing Judith Brock.” This enigmatical reply deserves elucidation. A hymn of eighteen stanzas was composed and sung at her funeral, in the old meeting-house. This extraordinary production begins:

“Death loud alarms, we feel the shock
Louder than thunder’s roar,
With grief we learn that Judith Brock,
Is known on earth no more.”

It goes on to describe the youth and attractions of Judith, her long and painful illness, the scenes of her death and the grief of her friends, ending with solemn admonition. This dirge was sung to a tune composed by Mr. Ingalls, who may have written the words. This tune, called LAMENTATION, and the words, may be found on pp. 169-170 of the Christian Harmony. It was a fugue, with many repetitions, and the rendering thereof must have required at least half an hour. Such was the taste of our ancestors. The composition was intricate and when well rendered was considered very fine, and seventy years ago it was thought quite a feat for a company of singers to sing it through without a mistake. One, somewhat like it, was sung at the funeral of Polly Gould.

Finding “the tastes of our ancestors” perhaps too strong for modern class singing, we’ve abridged Ingalls’ composition and added an alto. The original song occupies 2 1/2 pages of music, plus an additional page of text (18 stanzas!). We’ve used only the first third of his composition. The text “Millions of years may roll away” is the last stanza of the original. Still, a powerful song!

Ingalls memorialized Judith Brock in yet another text, CROSTIC (get it?):

Jesus our great high priest was slain,
Up to his father’s throne he flies,
Death and the grave may boast in vain,
In him our strength and safety lies.
Triumphant thought may still be sung,
Hope is not bounded by the grave,
Beyond the grave our chiefest song
Runs thro’ the space of endless days.
Open your eyes ye sleeping dust,
Come forth the great Redeemer cries,
Kingdoms and realms their slumbers burst, And saints shall in his image rise.

 

Polly Gould was another young woman whose death was memorialized in verse and song. The broadside at right indicates it should be sung “to a very mournful tune.”  Ingalls’ FAREWELL HYMN (158t) uses this text; the melody is quite similar to 95 VERNON in The Sacred Harp.  A mournful tune, indeed.  Here’s a little more information on the text.

Here’s the 1902 History of Newbury, Vermont, from Google books (scroll down for the entry on Judith Brock). You can enter “Ingalls” in the search box to see many tidbits about the composer, including the origin of Ingalls’ ELECTION HYMN (398), another song to appear in The Shenandoah Harmony.