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. An 1828 manuscript by Lucius Chapin (1760-1842), who was famous in his day as a hymn tune writer, raises the possibility that Lucius was its composer.

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Challenging songs, Part II: 160 ADMIRATION...

May 21, 2012 by

As a follow up to my previous post on challenging songs, here’s another example of a difficult song that we may or may not include in the book.  Lemuel Babcock’s ADMIRATION (ShH 160), from The Columbian Harmony (1793), illustrates one of the challenges of the shapenote system: making key changes in the middle of a piece.  (Of course, the song was originally published in round notes, so that wasn’t an issue for Babcock.)  ADMIRATION was also in the first shapenote book, The Easy Instructor (1801), but the entire song is in the minor key.  We think the key change should be singable with a strong leader and tenor section—notice that the tenor’s “la-fa-mi” fugue entrance is repeated by each part in turn, so everyone else has a chance to hear the figure first.  And there are some tasty...

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