With The Shenandoah Harmony back from the printers and on sale, I am excited to share some of my favorites tunes with singers. In advance of our launch weekend or other ShH singing, check out this post and previous committee picks by Rachel & Nora. As a bass it was tempting to just pick songs like 238 Dover, but I think those below should appeal to many. Selecting the tunes for the book has given me the chance to really connect with the lyrics, and experience a wide variety of shape note music. I hope you enjoy exploring the book, and most of all I hope to sing with you soon!
- 10 Something New. This text truly speaks to me, and the slightly silly image of worldly pleasure as a burst bubble endears it even more. The recording is from a very special singing school with Tollie Lee.
- 121 Hermon. Try surprising people (or yourself) with this McCurry arrangement of a familiar tune.
- 171 Catalina. I strongly associate both this song and 322 Parrish with my first encounters with shape note at Swarthmore College. It’s an absolute joy to sing these songs and hear how the composers have drawn from their own tastes and the tradition. Leland’s adaptation of Watts adds a personal element to the text. Recordings of Catalina and many other contemporary compositions published in The Trumpet can be found at BostonSing.org.
- 204 Wake Up. Simple, homophonic settings of folk tunes like this one recur as an important strain in our mid-Atlantic source material. We’ve tried to strike a balance that lets these ballads tell their stories without burdening all-day singing with too many verses.
- 209 Consolation. I remember going through books at the start of this project and excitedly e-mailing the committee about this one. The unexpected opening figure highlights the minor iv chord twice, a feature that comes up in Parrish, Allison Steel’s unusual setting of 403 Hicks’ Farewell, and Paradise (below).
- 288b Mississippi. The words absolutely make this tune, with the four short lines in the second half drawing a lot of power from the sparse three-part setting. We’ve added a few notes to the bass part to make it singable by altos.
- 302 Paradise. Along with Nora and Rachel, I’ve been absolutely captivated by the music of Barnabas McKyes. Or at least the all-minor selection we’ve included in the book. What appeals to me about Paradise is how the musically unusual moments are given a straightforward motivation from the text.
- 321b Vienna. We didn’t manage to turn up much information on this peculiar two-part song. The rhythm is adjusted from how it appears in Wyeth’s Repository, Part II, but preserves some of the original declarative feel. The Shenandoah Harmony mixes in a variety of two-part songs, which can really refocus a large singing.
- 334 Gethsemane. This song typifies the sound of A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony for me. An early find in the project, Gethsemane captured my imagination as to what The Shenandoah Harmony could become.