In Memory of John Bayer, Jr.

Jan 11, 2017 by

In Memory of John Bayer, Jr. by Kelly Macklin John Bayer, Jr. passed away on December 8, 2016 just over a year after the death of his wife, Loraine. They are survived by their children, Regina, Hans, and Jubal, and four grandchildren. I first met John Bayer in September 1990 at the United Convention in Chicago (held for the first time out of the South!) My husband, John, and I were new singers and this was one of our first conventions. John Bayer was also a fairly new shape note singer, but I never realized that until much later, as he was a strong, vibrant and enthusiastic singer who seemed as though he had sung this music all his life. He was a bear of a man, with a beautiful, clear tenor who could...

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Did Lucius Chapin write the Amazing Grace tune?...

May 12, 2015 by

The melody sung to John Newton’s 1779 hymn “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” is, without a doubt, America’s best-loved hymn tune. Rachel discovered an 1828 manuscript by Lucius Chapin (1760-1842), who was famous in his day as a hymn tune writer, that raises the possibility that Lucius was its composer.

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Long-lost Shenandoah tunebook found...

Jul 25, 2013 by

It’s rare to discover lost shape-note songs, let alone entire books, so I was completely floored to find that a copy of the long-lost James P. Carrell’s Songs of Zion (1821) was recently cataloged by the University of Virginia. Songs of Zion is a 64-page collection of shape-note tunes published by Ananias Davisson one year after his A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony.  Unlike A Supplement and most other contemporary shape-note tunebooks, which contain folk hymn arrangements and compositions by several people, Songs of Zion claims to consist almost entirely of Carrell’s own arrangements or compositions.  It gives us a rare opportunity to study one Shenandoah Valley composer in depth.  As I understand it, the last known copy of Songs of Zion belonged to W. E. Chute, who died in 1900, so many of these songs have gone unsung for more than...

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Morgan’s Judgment Anthem, newly typeset...

Aug 26, 2013 by

UPDATE: Our friends Becky, Leland, Cheri, and Ivy in Northampton recorded JUDGMENT ANTHEM! You can hear and download it from Soundcloud. I just completed a new shape-note edition of Justin Morgan’s JUDGMENT ANTHEM, available for download here. It’s a real choral showpiece, with multiple key changes and solo sections.  Asahel Benham first published JUDGMENT ANTHEM in his Federal Harmony in 1790.  It was the first anthem ever published in shapes, appearing in the first shape-note book, Little and Smith’s Easy Instructor (1801), and continued to be popular among early shape-note publishers, including Davisson and his contemporaries.  It appeared in Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second (1813), Davisson’s Kentucky Harmony (1816), Carden’s Missouri Harmony (1820), Moore’s Columbian Harmony (1825), and several other books. Whether by accident or design, Little and Smith changed the anthem in several significant ways, and these changes were copied in all...

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Committee picks, part 4: Kelly

Mar 21, 2013 by

  After finally getting to peruse the book in hand, I have renewed my acquaintance with songs we sang months ago. I second many previous picks including 184 Sinai (my favorite fugue), 334 Gethsemane (we opened with this stark, minor Abraham Wood composition for an Easter Sunrise service one year), and 22b Psalm 30 (possibly my favorite song in the book). -Kelly   I also recommend the following: 344 Springfield – this Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony  song by Babcock combines powerful and moving poetry with strong composition and a well-constructed time change. 274 Zion – another fine composition from Daniel Read that we found in the Kentucky Harmony; the words are a powerful part of the experience. 18t Canaan  – this three-part major song is a cheerful, melodic tune from Johnson’s Tennessee Harmony. 130 Absent Love – a stark,...

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Singing Judith Brock and Polly Gould...

Aug 5, 2012 by

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...

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