Committee picks, part 1: Rachel

Jan 13, 2013 by

Rachel Wells Hall

Rachel Wells Hall

Now that the book is at the printers, we on the music committee have decided to write a series of posts about the songs we are most excited to be singing!  I got this idea because I always liked seeing “staff picks” at a bookstore.

I’ve tried to make a mix of songs that I know we all like and some that are more my individual taste.  So this isn’t the most scientific of lists, but I enjoyed making it!

  • 22b PSALM 30.  This song, probably arranged by Amzi Chapin in the late 1790s, was recommended by our friend Gabriel Kastelle.  Gorgeous and unexpected harmonies…
  • 239 VOICE TO THE SHEPHERDS.  ☜ Click on title to see my post on this song.  It’s rare to find a totally unknown American Christmas carol, and such a beautiful – though challenging – melody to boot.  This came from Dayton, Ohio, in the 1830s (George Miller’s Methodist Camp-Meeting Hymn Book).  There’s another version in a different Ohio book.
  • 188 LEWISBURGH.  Shumway is one of my favorite New England composers—his songs are always a lot of fun to sing.  This setting of “Sweet is the day of sacred rest” comes from the American Harmony (1793).  The piece starts in 4/4, then he uses the lines “O may my heart in tune be found / Like David’s harp of solemn sound” to launch in to a lively 6/8 fugue.  At one point the alto and bass drone like a bagpipe.  Don’t think this song has been set in shapes before.  It’s a full two pages, but not as hard as it looks.
  • 104t TIME IS WINGING US AWAY.  This is a little scrap of a tune from page 178 of The Sacred Melodeon, only two parts, with the lyrics “Time is winging us away / To our eternal home.”  It’s unpretentious and satisfying.
  • 140t JEHALAH.  This is a half-page plain tune that we got from page 10 of the Hesperian Harp.  Dan wrote a new alto and also chose the text “God from his cloudy cistern pours.”  Very straightforward, easy to sing and lead, and soooo sweet.
  • 187 BRIGHT SEASON.  Like Jehalah, this is a half page plain song with a memorable text (“In the bright season of thy youth”).  I arranged it from Miller’s hymn book and paired it with this text.  Be warned that it’s harder than it looks—the challenge is that the song, which starts and ends minor, weaves in and out of major.  I recommend trying it without the raised sixth, but of course you are free to do as you wish…
  • 196 THE TURTLE DOVE.  One of my absolute favorite melodies from William Walker!  According to George Pullen Jackson, it’s a major version of the same fiddle tune, THE BLACKBIRD, as 432b COLUMBIA.  As in that song, the original tenor is extremely rangy (see HERE).  Our arrangement adds an alto and gives the tenors a little break—but here’s a secret: if you know Walker’s tenor and have the range you can sing it instead.
  • 456 MORTALITY.  I’ve got a soft spot for Barnabas McKyes, since a Facebook post I made indirectly led to the discovery of his identity.  This is my favorite of his short pieces—I just love the spectacular bass run at the end of the piece.  Hard, but worth it.