Suffering Savior (p. 344t)

Nov 30, 2013 by

This was my response to a post by Matt Bell on the fasola-discussions list, but it deserves its own place here…


SUFFERING SAVIOR, Shenandoah Harmony, p. 344t

The arrangement of SUFFERING SAVIOR that’s in William Hauser’s Hesperian Harp is one of my favorite songs.  It’s in the Shenandoah Harmony on p. 344t and here’s a rough recording of it:

ShH 344t Suffering Savior

I just love the two treble 4-sols in the middle of the piece that tie the phrases together.

It’s difficult to know how to cite this tune. We referenced William Hauser’s Hesperian Harp (1848), p. 54, as the direct source, but gave Christian Lyre (1831) credit for the basic form of the tune—in this case, just the title and the Hesperian tenor is similar to the Christian Lyre.  Nikos Pappas pointed out to me that the song is related, though not as similar, to CALVARY (with the same text and chorus) in Shaw & Spilman’s Columbian Harmony (1829), so the melody can’t solely be credited to Christian Lyre either.  CHRISTIAN INQUIRY on p. 24 in Patterson’s Church Music (1813) is also related – and also ends the first phrase on that delicious 1-4 dyad.  Oddly enough, I found the tune in an 1834 fraktur tunebook with a German text.  So SUFFERING SAVIOR seems to be a genuine folk hymn that travelled from place to place through the oral tradition.

Did Hauser arrange the tune for Hesperian Harp?  I’m reluctant to credit it to him, as he wasn’t shy about taking credit for other arrangements.  After all, there are a bunch of uncredited arrangements in that book that we now know come from Songs of Zion.  On the other hand, it seems likely that he did rearrange it for his Olive Leaf, and yet takes no credit for it….  Perhaps just citing “Arr. in Hesperian Harp, 1848.” would make the most sense.

Matt raised the question of whether the song would have been sung with the sixth degree of the scale raised, as is done in the living tradition of Southern shape-note music.  We’ve been purposely vague in the Shenandoah about the raised sixth and other unwritten alterations, such as chromatic alteration (singing up or down a semitone from the written pitch), microtuning (singing pitches that aren’t in an equal-tempered scale), microtiming (altering the rhythm by anticipating or delaying certain notes) and ornamentation (adding grace notes, slides, etc.):

When singing a minor tune, many singers will raise the sixth scale degree half a step, as has been done traditionally, even when a sharp is not written. This practice varies by region, singer, and specific musical instance. …

Shape-note singing is a living tradition; the best way to learn is to sing with different groups of people.  In particular, singing from The Sacred Harp has formed our concept and love of this music.  We recommend listening to a variety of recordings, especially from the South,   where the music has been sung continuously for almost two hundred years.  (The Shenandoah Harmony, p. vii-viii)

Would SUFFERING SAVIOR have been sung with the raised sixth?  Should it be sung that way today? I’m in favor of singing it that way because that’s what I like, and I do think that Hauser, who was interested in presenting melodies from the oral tradition, wrote in the sharps in the Olive Leaf  because that’s how it was sung (he didn’t make this sort of “correction” in Hesperian Harp, but times had changed, or he had changed, or something).  It’s interesting that a sharp is used as a sort of melodic leading tone elsewhere in the piece, even though it “spoils” the conventional V7/i cadence at the end. This may be, again, how it was sung – you can hear that sort of thing in Appalachian ballad singing, for example.


SUFFERING JESUS, Olive Leaf, p. 83

In the Olive Leaf, Hauser also puts raised sixths in KEDRON (SH 48b), Monday’s WASHINGTON (CB 147, ShH 234), Lowry’s MECKLENBURG (ShH 259), O SAVE (SH 70b), RED HILL (version of BETHEL, SH 27), MESSIAH (SH 131t), NEW BRISTOL (version of CHILD OF GRACE, SH 77t), TIME FLIES, MOURNER’S PRAYER (version of Christian Harmony 144 WALK WITH GOD, ShH 3t), FAIRFIELD (SH 29t), SWEET PROSPECT (SH 65), DETROIT (SH 39t), EMORY (version of CROSS OF CHRIST, SH 123b), WEEPING SAVIOR (SH 33t), Billings’ NEWINGHAM, Wetmore’s AMERICA (SH 36t), Smith’s PSALM 119 (ShH 428), WONDROUS LOVE (SH 159), and HEDDING (version of HEAVENLY SPARK, ShH 83t).  And he goes full Dorian in HAPPY SOULS (MIDI), the only shape-note song I’ve encountered in the “key of re.”  He does NOT write the raised sixth in BEGONE UNBELIEF (THO’ DARK BE MY WAY, ShH 305) or BABYLON IS FALLEN (SH 117), though he does alter other notes in BABYLON.

To sum up, Hauser puts raised sixths in pretty much every minor song that has sixths in it.  BEGONE UNBELIEF is an exception because it modulates from major to minor like the version of CONFLICT I discussed in an earlier post.  I don’t know why he didn’t do it in BABYLON—perhaps because he knew that its author, the scholar William E. Chute, who helped him with the Olive Leaf, didn’t want them?  It’s really interesting that he writes raised sixths into New England songs as well.

Here’s what I imagine SUFFERING SAVIOR would look like with “Olive-Leaf-style” accidentals.  Only now the arrangement has problems with some weird conflicts between the alto and tenor–perhaps one reason Hauser ended up altering all the parts.


Although Hauser’s notation of the raised sixths corresponds to how we are taught in the Sacred Harp rudiments (both of them), be aware that he alters a lot of other pitches, too—sevenths, and then there’s this “leading tone” phenomenon.  He also alters notes in major songs.  I’ll see if I can write down the rules he uses, because there seem to be some, and my hunch is that they’re melodically rather than harmonically driven.

Hauser writes in the Musical Million that other singers said that it was impossible to sing minor music with instruments, but he disagreed—he said that the instruments ought to conform to what the singers did, and I assume the altered notes in the Olive Leaf are done for this purpose.  Instrumentalists played the song as written and singers altered pitches by tradition, so they couldn’t sing with instruments.  Hauser played several instruments and would have been sensitive to this problem.

I’m planning on making another post about raised sixths, raised sevenths, and other chromatic and microtonal alterations, so I’ll leave this topic for a more thorough discussion later.

Matt raised another question—the written-in attributions in William E. Chute’s copy of The Olive Leaf of SUFFERING JESUS and HEDDING to the New England composer Daniel Read.  This seems to be Chute’s mistake, and it was propagated in other books, like Durand & Lester’s Primitive Baptist Hymn and Tune Book.  Both SUFFERING SAVIOR (CALVARY) and HEAVENLY SPARK (like HEDDING) are in Shaw & Spilman’s Columbian Harmonist.  Read also published a Columbian Harmonist.  Presumably Chute had some sort of indexing system and it failed him in this case.

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