protestant hymnody: shapenote traditions

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protestant hymnody: shapenote traditions
protestant hymnody:
shapenote traditions
The Case Against the ‘Old Way’
Rev’d Thomas Walter (1696-1725) of Boston, voices his opposition to ‘Old Way’ singing in
1721 in ‘The Grounds and Rules of Musick Explained’ (Walter 1721).
‘Our tunes are now miserably tortured, and twisted, and quavered, in some churches,
in an horrid Medley of confused and disorderly Noises . . . Our tunes are, for Want
of a Standard to appeal to in all our Singing, left to the Mercy of every unskillful
Throat to chop and alter, twist and change, according to their infinitely diverse and
no less odd Humours and Fancies’
‘Regular Singing’
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Singing by ‘regular’ pulse/tempo
Singing by note: using notation
Singing in multiple parts
Utilizing same sacred poetry as line singing
America’s Emerging Music Biz
❖ 1638 first printing press arrives in
colonial America
❖ 1770 William Billings publishes the
New England Psalm Singer,
➢ First collection of Americanborn composers
➢ Including many by Billings
❖ 18th century, New England
Puritans develop singing schools
attached to church
Daniel Read
William Billings
Plain song: ‘Africa’ by William Billings
first published 1770
Now shall my inward joys arise
and burst into a song;
Almighty love inspires my heart,
and pleasure tunes my tongue
-- Isaac Watts, 1709
Fuging Tune: ‘Calvary’ by Daniel Read
first published 1785
My thoughts that often mount the skies,
go, search the world beneath,
where nature all in ruin lies,
and owns her sov’reign Death!
--Isaac Watts, 1707
Tenor: Where nature all in ruin lies
Bass+Alto:
Where nature all in ruin lies
Treble (soprano):
Where nature all in ruin lies
Tunebooks
❖ Designed for
sacred/secular use
❖ Earliest ones collected
European compositions
❖ Popularity of New
England School eclipsed
that of Europeans
❖ Compilers heavily
plagiarized each other
Shape Notation
❖ Invented in 1801 by William Smith
and William Little of Philadelphia
for their Easy Instructor tunebook
❖ Shaped note-heads paired with
pitches of major/minor scale
❖ Notation becomes popular in
tunebooks along mid-Atlantic and
southern states
The Sacred Harp,
❖ Published 1844 by Benjamin
Franklin White of Georgia
❖ Still sung by families &
communities in unbroken
tradition in GA, AL
❖ Collected New England School
tunes with arrangements of
folk hymns
Folk Hymnody
❖ Melodies and texts from folk
sources arranged for part
singing according to stylistic
conventions of 19th century
hymnody
❖ Often in minor keys
❖ Increasing use of dyadic
harmony
❖ “Wondrous Love” as found in
The Sacred Harp
Singing Conventions
❖ Singings, or Singing
Conventions: Annual, multi-day
gatherings drawing from
regional/national community.
❖ Chattahoochee Musical
Convention, in Georgia, oldest
continuing convention
➢ founded in 1852 to sing
Sacred Harp
Singing Practices
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Sit in hollow square
Leaders Beat time
Singing the notes
Always sung LOUD
New Topia,
by Ruebin Monday, 1816
The ‘Better Music Movement’
Reformed style in the 19th Century
American Innovations
& Preferences
❖ Shape notation
❖ Singing schools
❖ Folk Hymnody
❖ Minor keys
❖ Dyadic Harmony
European Convention
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‘Round note’ notation
Conservatories
‘Scientific’ composition
Major keys
Triadic Harmony
Lowell Mason leads ‘Better Music’ movement of 19th century
Villulia, 1850
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folk melody
dyadic harmony
minor key
‘hollow’, ‘rough’, ‘brutal’ sound
Nearer My God To Thee, 1859
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composed melody
triadic harmony
major key
‘full’, ‘smooth’, ‘gentle’ sound
Older Shape Note Singings
❖ Benton, KY Southern
Harmony (1835)
❖ Alabama and Georgia,The
Sacred Harp (1844)
❖ East Tennessee, New Harp
of Columbia (1848)
❖ North Carolina, The
Christian Harmony (1866)
The Colored Sacred Harp
❖ Compiled by Judge Jackson of Ozark, AL in 1934
❖ Sung amongst small population of surrounding
Wiregrass region along with Sacred Harp
❖ Limited/no use outside of Wiregrass
The Sacred Harp’s Survival
❖ Family bonds
➢ Preserved amongst groups of
families sharing multigenerational history in
Alabama, Georgia
❖ Communal remembrance
➢ Rituals of remembrance like
memorial lesson performed at
singings.
❖ Participatory nature
➢ Musical meaning rooted in
participation rather than
listening
Several generations of the Wootten family of
Alabama sing the Sacred Harp tune ‘Present
Joys’.... What kind of composition is it?
Fayette County, Alabama
Taken at Aldridge Memorial Singing
The Sacred Harp’s Survival
❖ Family bonds
➢ Preserved amongst groups of
families sharing multigenerational history in
Alabama, Georgia
❖ Communal remembrance
➢ Rituals of remembrance like
memorial lesson performed at
singings.
❖ Participatory nature
➢ Musical meaning rooted in
participation rather than
listening
David Lee of Hoboken, Georgia
speaks about the Sacred Harp’s
survival and revival
Several generations of the Wootten family of
Alabama sing the Sacred Harp tune ‘Present
Joys’.... What kind of composition is it?
The Sacred Harp’s Survival
❖ Sacred Harp Publishing
Company, of Carrollton, GA
periodically revises tunebook
➢ latest in 1991
❖ Revisions always include tunes
by living composers
❖ Small evolutions in style
present, but generally limited to
parameters of 19th century
Revival
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1960s-70s ‘folk boom’ bring new attention to
old American
80s-Present New singers nationwide south
to learn and participate
2000-Present Sacred Harp music included in
several major movies set in historic south
New conventions founded across country
Older, regional community expands to
modern national scale
The Modern Community
❖ Conventions supported through
reciprocal travel
❖ ‘Revival’ singers and ‘Traditional’
singers
❖ Culture of respect for tradition as
presented by southerners
❖ Cultural / ideological split between
traditional and revival singers
➢ Traditional singers often describe
their music in terms of worship
➢ Revival singers often describe this
music to be folk music

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