Questioning the Unanswered Cadence...

Mar 29, 2014 by

There’s sometimes an audible gasp from the class after singing REDEEMING GRACE, THE HUMBLE PENITENT, or Allison Blake Steel’s arrangement of HICKS’ FAREWELL. Why the surprise?

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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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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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239 Voice to the Shepherds

Jan 13, 2013 by

It’s rare to find a totally unknown American Christmas carol, and such a beautiful – though challenging – melody to boot.  We found it under the title FREE GRACE on page 36 of George Miller’s Methodist Camp-Meeting Hymn Book from Dayton, Ohio.  The book was copyrighted in 1833 and published in 1841.  Nothing is known about Miller.  There’s a similar song called VOICE TO THE SHEPHERDS in Youngstown, Ohio native Amos S. Hayden‘s Introduction to Sacred Music (Pittsburgh, 1835).  We preferred Hayden’s title and Miller’s arrangement.  Other than adding an alto, we’ve made minimal edits to the song.  Miller wrote out all the held notes; we’ve replaced most of them by fermatas.  We’d like to thank Nikos Pappas for his contributions to this research. Learning the song takes some work.  Here’s a video of members of the...

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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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Charts and graphs, oh my!

Jul 13, 2012 by

Being a mathematically-inclined person, I’m always interested in the stories one can tease out of data…  Now that we’ve got the book mostly mapped out, I made a chart displaying the first publication dates of the songs.  Each dot in the chart represents a song.  Given that we started with the Kentucky Harmony and its Supplement, you’d think that the most common year would be, say, 1816 or 1825.  However, the majority of the tunes Davisson published were from earlier authors.  The longest line of dots is for the year 1793, the publication of Shumway’s American Harmony and Stone’s Columbian Harmony, both of which are well represented in The Shenandoah Harmony. It’s quite interesting to compare the song profile of The Shenandoah Harmony with a similar chart displaying songs in The Sacred Harp (1991).  (Thanks to Ian Quinn...

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