Brooklyn (Joe Beasley) shapenote singing, Sunday, May 8, 2016. At St. Paul’s Church, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York. Singing from THE SACRED HARP, 1991 Denson edition and 2012 Cooper Book Edition [CB], and the Shenandoah Harmony [ShH]).
So pleased to have all the books (including our fresh new Densons) on a shelf in the singing room instead of downstairs, through a gate, across the tiny courtyard, through a door, and stacked in the supply closet. (Our tea things will continue to live there, but it’s so much less to carry around.)
It felt like an unusually minor singing, punctuated by gospel-ish Top of the Pops numbers like TRUSTING JESUS, GOSPEL MESSAGE, and ANGEL BAND (and now that I think of it, a lot of C Major too; but scarcely any F Major). And Ezra, our Vermonter, offered us a mini Ingalls-fest. Sarah sang bass throughout: entertaining and instructive for her and all of us. Thanks to Julia Reischel, last month, for the excellent idea to use 425 as a closer.
Jon and I both encountered a surprising hitch in ShH 279, MILES’ LANE, in the treble. For one thing, in starting (and returning to) the La below So below Fa, if you take my meaning, in C Major, it lingers in a grave if not gravelly region for sopranos, at least. For another, where the bottom two parts have exact repeats between the first and second phrases, the treble and alto make tiny changes requiring the treble to sing directly into a discord (A La vs G So). Conceding that just because something is difficult, that doesn’t make it wrong, can someone with a third printing of the Shen Harm just check the errata and make sure there’s no mistake?
Thanks to Nancy B for ginger brownies, Alice W for poppy seed cake, and Sara for coconut cookies. Thanks also to those who made the sacrifice and came back to my apartment to eat potato chips and save me from their perilous lure.
Paul, Nancy B., Solon, Sara, Aldo, Mary Ellen, Sarah L., Stina, Jon, Alice W., Chris C., Julie, Ezra, Lynn, nbm.
Opener: ShH 1t DUBLIN nbm
312t SING TO ME OF HEAVEN Aldo
31t NINETY THIRD PSALM Paul
CB 266b LEBANON NEW Nancy
30t LOVE DIVINE Stina
CB 96 MERCY SEAT Mary Ellen
CB 504t PETERBOROUGH nbm
CB 573 TRUSTING JESUS Jon
CB 98 GLORY SHONE AROUND Aldo
ShH 260t CONFLICT Paul
63 CORONATION Solon
ShH 339 BEGONE UNBELIEF Ezra
ShH viii WHEN JESUS WEPT (round) Stina
213t THE GOOD OLD WAY Sara
ShH 147 RIVER OF JORDAN Mary Ellen
ShH 399 HUMBLE PENITENT Nancy
ShH 364b STONY ISLAND nbm
ShH 279b MILES’ LANE Jon
CB 422t A SONG OF TEXAS Aldo
ShH 204 WAKE UP Paul
ShH 106 BUNKER HILL Solon
ShH 127 PEMBROKE Ezra
ShH 105 PETITION Chris
146 HALLELUJAH Stina
CB 463 ANGEL BAND Mary Ellen
203 FLORIDA Sara
ShH 68 WARD Nancy
CALLBACK: CB 380t NETTIE nbm
84 AMSTERDAM Alice
CB 174 GOSPEL MESSAGE Jon
CB 210 MINNESOTA Aldo
ShH 254 PENNSYLVANIA Paul
ShH 77 COLLINS Chris
29t FAIRFIELD Solon
158b THE APPLETREE Ezra
171 EXHORTATION Stina
ShH 22b PSALM 30 Sarah
528 SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS Sara
ShH 34 SOLEMN THOUGHT Nancy
ShH 1b ROCKBRIDGE Julie
155 NORTHFIELD Alice
CB 411 FINEST FLOWER nbm
CB 563 JESUS IS MINE Jon
CB 54t PALMETTO Aldo
ShH 264b MILLBROOK Paul
159 WONDROUS LOVE ***
CB 497 THE BITTER CUP Chris
290 VICTORIA Solon
506 THE ARK Sarah
ShH 48 CAPTAIN KIDD Ezra
82t BOUND FOR CANAAN Stina
ShH 73 EXULTATION Nancy
ShH SUMMER Julie
178 AFRICA Alice
CLOSER: 425 GOLDEN STREETS nbm
STATS: Totals: 27 plus 28 for 55 songs, pretty well distributed across the three books: 19 Denson, 14 Cooper, 22 Shenandoah. There were four Denson duplicates from March (31t, 63, 425, 528): zero from the Cooper Book (again), and four from the Shen Harm (ShH 147, ShH 254, ShH 264b, ShH 364b). MILLBROOK FTW. We collected $31 for the church.
It’s fantastic to look at, but it makes me personally happy that our fasolas are merely the eroded remnant of this system. (From a fifteenth-century musical manuscript held at the University of Pennsylvania; link to blog post.)
Present: Nancy Britton, Gwen Gethner, Emily Linden, Jasmine Mendoza, Charles Biada, Mary Ellen Schrock, Sam Kleinman, Stina Soderberg, Jon Giles, Melissa Myers, Julie Botnick, Sara Lisbeth, Gary Ryan, and me. Jon did a lot of TRUSTING. We had kuku sabzi, za’atar carrots, chicken with honey mustard glaze, tomatoes vinaigrette, cheese (thanks, Melissa), pears, brownies from Mary Ellen, and fantastic tres leches cake with berries from Nancy Britton, plus generous offerings of beer and cider. I generally forget something; this time I forgot the yogurt for the kuku (which I’d made a special trip for that morning). You should have it next time you make kuku sabzi, it is even better that way.
30t ROCHESTER nbm
411 FINEST FLOWER, Gwen
511 BROWN Nancy B
344 WE’LL MEET BEYOND THE GRAVE Emily
95t FAREWELL, VAIN WORLD Charles
96 MERCY SEAT Mary Ellen
587 NEARER MY GOD TO THEE Stina
54t PALMETTO Sam
290 ALAS AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED Mary Ellen
504t PETERBOROUGH nbm
499 WHERE LOVE IN GLORY SHINES Sam
180 A PLACE FOR CHILDREN Nancy B
157 HOW WE GROVEL HERE BELOW Charles (speak for yourself, Charles)
175b STAR IN THE EAST Jon
48t DEVOTION Sam
381b THE SURRENDER Jon
559 WILL YOU MEET ME? Gwen
422t A SONG OF TEXAS Charles
422b THE GRIEVED SOUL Melissa
357 GOD’S ETERNAL Sam
160 A CROWN OF LIFE FOR ME Emily
416t MY NATIVE LAND nbm
438 MISSOURI Charles
57 AM I A SOLDIER OF THE CROSS Sara
267b HEDGEBURG Jon
266t O HAPPY DAY Gary
463 ANGEL BAND
Brooklyn (Joe Beasley) shapenote singing, Sunday, April 10, 2016. At St. Paul’s Church, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York. Singing from THE SACRED HARP, 1991 Denson edition and 2012 Cooper Book Edition [CB], and the Shenandoah Harmony [ShH]).
I really liked some Cooper Book songs this time: like 163b MARYSVILLE, called by Nancy Britton, one of our best seekers-out of tender (generally minor) obscurities.
As to CB 552, called by Sam, I’m looking at it now to work out the treble trickeries I missed every time. The tenor too has a couple of surprises. Nice piece, so definitely worth a little attention. It reminds me of some new minor fuging tunes, like Charlie Obert’s ETERNITY (285) in the ShH, and I really had to peer at the page to convince myself the date was 1927. We also enjoyed ShH 401 HALLELUJAH, another of Nancy’s calls, once we’d figured out how it goes. Julia, come and visit again soon and we’ll sing some more beige songs! Thanks to Nancy B and whoever brought those bakery cookies for the snacks.
For anyone who feels the Cooper Book got shortchanged this month, look for details to come on a Fifth Saturday all-Blue house singing on the 30th. UPDATE: Looks like we’ll put this off in deference to an otherbooks singing at Aldo’s. Details to come.
Paul, Sam, Leon, Nancy B., Solon, Sara, Sarah L., Stina, Jon, Alice W., Becca, Jasmine, Terry, Charles, Julie, Molly, nbm. Visiting: Julia R. Returning: Bruce. New: Ben, Margaret Savage.
Opener: 47t PRIMROSE nbm
49b MEAR Julia
31t NINETY THIRD PSALM Paul
ShH 22b PSALM 30 Sam
268 DAVID’S LAMENTATION Bruce
36b NINETY FIFTH Leon
CB 163b MARYSVILLE Nancy B
CB 184t WILL YOU COME? Jon
114 SAINTS DELIGHT nbm
300 CALVARY Julia
ShH 264b MILLBROOK Paul
ShH 335 ROCKINGHAM Sam
344 RAINBOW Leon
117 BABYLON IS FALLEN Bruce
ShH 326t WE’VE NO ABIDING CITY HERE Solon
271t ARKANSAS Ben
472 AKIN Stina
ShH 354b MONTAGUE Nancy
57 CHRISTIAN SOLDIER Sara
61 SWEET RIVERS Sarah L.
277 ANTIOCH Jasmine
ShH 364b STONY ISLAND nbm
63 CORONATION Alice W.
CALLBACK: ShH 147 RIVER OF JORDAN nbm
39t DETROIT Julia
448t CONSECRATION Paul
ShH 15 CONVERSE Jordan
CB 222 OCEAN Charles
CB 507b GLORY OF THE CROSS Jon
198 GREEN STREET Terry
70t GAINSVILLE Ben
441 RAYMOND Leon
35 SAINTS BOUND FOR HEAVEN Solon
CB 552 AND LIVE THROUGH ENDLESS DAY Sam
445 PASSING AWAY Stina
ShH 260t CONFLICT Sara
162 PLENARY Becca
ShH 401 HALLELUJAH Nancy B
505 WHERE CEASELESS AGES ROLL Sarah L.
ShH 178 EFFORT Julie
ShH 179 SEPARATION Jon
ShH 132 STAR IN THE EAST Jasmine
ShH 108 AMAZING GRACE nbm
128 PROMISED LAND Alice
58 PISGAH Julia
ShH 140b TEN THOUSAND CHARMS Jordan
ShH 264t ANIMATION Charles
276 BRIDGEWATER Molly
65 SWEET PROSPECT Leon
68b ORTONVILLE Solon
ShH 241t SINNER CAN YOU HATE Sam
ShH 254 PENNSYLVANIA Terry
ShH 114 YOUTHFUL BLESSINGS Julie
528 SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS Sara
CLOSER: 425 GOLDEN STREETS Julia (with the unprinted but obvious second verse, and an excellent closing tune it is)
STATS & COMMENTS: Totals: 23 plus 32 for 55 songs: 31 Denson, 5 Cooper, 19 Shenandoah. (That’s a lot of songs for a regular singing!) There were four Denson duplicates from March (31t, 63, 128, 271t): zero from the Cooper Book (!), and four from the Shen Harm (ShH 15, ShH 140b, ShH 254, ShH 264b MILLBROOK). MILLBROOK powers ahead as the longest continuous streak. We were very generous and collected $55 for the church.
Brooklyn (Joe Beasley) shapenote singing, Sunday, March 13, 2016. At St. Paul’s Church, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York. Singing from THE SACRED HARP, 1991 Denson edition and 2012 Cooper Book Edition [CB], and the Shenandoah Harmony [ShH]).
I want to thank everyone who came to the singing; Charlotte and John even risked bringing friends. It is your enthusiasm and good will, more even than your voices, that make Brooklyn singing successful and fun. Oh, and snacks, of course— thanks, Alice W. and Sarah. All you treacherous revolutionaries will, I am sure, be pleased to know we slaughtered Caesar, I mean the jello mold, quite thoroughly at my apartment.
Gregory, Charlotte, John D., Jon, Jamie, Jordan, Jasmine, Alice W., Terry, Gwen, Sarah L., Mary Jane, Alice S., Molly, Becca, Lynn (?), Julie B., nbm. New: Charlotte’s friend Mary; John’s friend Phoebe; Erin.
Opener: 56t COLUMBIANA nbm
135 OLNEY Jamie
ShH 264b MILLBROOK Gregory
569b SACRED THRONE Charlotte
31t NINETY THIRD PSALM Paul
106 ECSTASY Jordan
CB 30t ROCHESTER Terry
ShH 363b CONSTRAINED BY LOVE Gwen
95 VERNON Sarah
332 SONS OF SORROW Mary Jane
ShH 339b BEGONE UNBELIEF Jon
ShH 37 SPIRITUAL SAILOR nbm
128 THE PROMISED LAND Alice W.
CB 340 ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I Jasmine
ShH 309 OVERTON Jamie
448b GRIEVED SOUL Gregory
30b PROSPECT Paul
CALLBACK: ShH 15 CONFLICT nbm
CB 38b THE ROAD TO LIFE & DEATH Lynn
ShH 140b TEN THOUSAND CHARMS Charlotte
CB 587 NEARER MY GOD TO THEE John
96 FEW HAPPY MATCHES Terry
CB 411 THE FINEST FLOWER Gwen
ShH 423 BRIER ISLAND Sarah
ShH 248t SINGING PILGRIM Jon
ShH 242 BOULDER nbm
63 CORONATION Alice W.
ShH 236b MAQUOKETA Jamie
CB 505 CLEANSING FOUNTAIN Paul
CB 159 WONDROUS LOVE Lynn
312b RESTORATION Molly
CB 393 I’M WANDERING TO AND FRO Charlotte
47b IDUMEA Erin
ShH 243 BALM IN GILEAD Gary
ShH 254 PENNSYLVANIA Terry
CB 70b EVENING Julie
CB 38t SESSIONS Sarah
271t ARKANSAS Erin
CB 355 HINDER ME NOT Jon
ShH 162 ALL IS WELL nbm
84 AMSTERDAM Alice W.
CB 463 NEARER MY GOD TO THEE Jasmine
CLOSER: CB 559 WILL YOU MEET ME Gwen
STATS & COMMENTS: Totals: 17 plus 26 for 43 songs, remarkably evenly divided: 16 Denson, 13 Cooper, 14 Shenandoah. There were three Denson duplicates from February (31t, 106, and 312b): two from the Cooper Book (CB38t and CB411), and two from the Shen Harm (ShH 15, ShH 264b MILLBROOK). CB 559 WILL YOU MEET ME? returned, MILLBROOK continued its streak, and we sang WONDROUS LOVE out of the Cooper Book this time. We collected $29 for the church.
See you at St Paul’s Carroll Gardens at 2:00 NEW TIME. We’ll stab the jello mold in the Senate afterwards.
Annotations, additions, and exhortations are welcome. (Most welcome would be the names of leaders where I missed noting them.)
MIDWEEK SINGING WITH LESSON ON TEXTS
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Theological expertise from Jason Steidl and Gary Ryan
Jason started by proposing that, to members of the community, the Sacred Harp (that thing within the red covers) stood as an “authoritative text” with songs expressing a broad range of “different thoughts and feelings;” that, in a way, it was almost “a sacred text” itself. Like the Bible, he said, it offered us many perspectives, in part because (like the Bible) it was collected from many times and sources. He opened the lesson with one of the earliest tunes in the book:
49t OLD HUNDRED (“O come loud anthems let us sing”). Its text (and indeed the setting) comes from the Anglican/Genevan side of our tradition and is a paraphrase of a psalm. Jason contrasted it with 531 DURA (“Dear Lord, forgive my sins, I pray”) and its first-person plea. Gary agreed that there is considerable variation but most texts have an “evangelical slant” — not Catholic, not Episcopal, generally the “less formal” denominations.
Gary mentioned a few frequently mentioned themes that might need explanation, including: Zion (i.e., Jerusalem, both actual and figurative) and Bethel (“house of God”). He said that he had a sense of the tradition as focused on “longing,” longing for “a better life and a better world,” but with different angles and emphases.
Moving on to favorite Bible stories, Gary told the story of King David and his vain, handsome son, Absalom, caught in a thicket by his hair during battle, and we sang
268 DAVID’S LAMENTATION
Reviewing the questions that had been asked on Facebook, Jason explained that the “Ebenezer” was a “stone of help” marking a victory of the Israelites over the Philistines, as told in I Samuel 7, 7–13, which he read for us. We sang:
135 OLNEY (“Here I’ll raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy strength I’m come” [v. 2])
Next was the frequently-asked question, What are “Mary’s or Manassah’s stains?” Jason drew out a connection between sin and stain involving blood-stained cloth that proved a little graphic for some of the more squeamish members of the class. He said that Mary here is probably the Mary of Magdala associated with a prostitute who follows Jesus and that Manasseh is a notoriously corrupt, idol-worshiping, altar-profaning, extremely bad king of Israel. We sang:
569b SACRED THRONE, led by Jamie. (“And Mary’s or Manasseh’s stains, Or sins more vile than they” [v. 3]).
The first verse of this text prompted a question about the sacred geography involved in the river that flows from “beneath the sacred throne of God.” Jason identified this as a quotation from Revelation 22 and its description of the City of God. The river, the “sacred flood,” is then made equivalent to Jesus’s sacrificial blood. Gary spoke of the ancient Jewish tradition of animal sacrifice and particularly of the two goats sacrificed on the Day of Atonement, one killed and one, the “scape-goat,” sent away to the wilderness bearing the community’s sins.
Emma asked about the text of, and led:
317b JACKSON (“I am a stranger here below, / And what I am is hard to know / I am so vile, so prone to sin/ I fear that I’m not born again”), as it seemed to her very different from the Wattsian type. Gary agreed and referred to its “direct expression of personal anxiety” as associated more with the Wesleyan (Methodist) style of “experiential” religious writing. A distinction was drawn between the Calvinist/Baptist/Presbyterian and the Wesleyan/Methodist perspectives classically represented by Watts and Wesley, roughly associated with predestination on the one hand and free choice on the other. Jason complicated the matter by noting that the text expresses “a fundamental uncertainty as to salvation, whether Calvinist or Arminian.” Along the same line of doubt, Gwen led:
287 CAMBRIDGE verses 1&2 (if I recall correctly) (“The Lord will happiness divine / On contrite hearts bestow; / Then tell me gracious God is mine / A contrite heart or no.”) Its lack of positive resolution Jason compared to that of many of the psalms, and commented that it did stand out in American Protestantism, which “looks for a happy ending.” Mary Jane compared the speaker to St. Paul, talking of doing the things he ought not to have done, and Aldo told us a bit about the poet, William Cowper, who was a depressive.
47b IDUMEA (“Waked by the trumpet sound / I from my grave shall rise”)
asking “Why am I getting woken up when the sky is on fire?” Indeed, said Jason, this touches on different views of the great question of death. Christianity generally believes in a general resurrection in the flesh and day of judgement. But, meanwhile, what? Is it a kind of sleep? Or is the spirit alive with God while waiting for its body to join it? The prime texts on this question, like I Thessalonians 4 (verses?), come from a period when the big day was expected very soon in which the trumpet of God raises the dead and the living. Aldo added that Idumea, the place name, was another way of saying Edom,
Gary told the story of Jacob and Esau, leading to an explanation of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel and getting a new name: instead of Jacob,”heel-grabber,” he was now to be known as Israel, “wrestler with God.” We sang:
95 VERNON (“Wrestling, I will not let thee go / Till I thy name, thy nature know”)
Aldo mentioned the ongoing mystery of the little Scripture quotations, added to the SH in the 1911 and later editions, and how they often seem to have little to do with the song texts.
49b MEAR (“Will God forever cast us off?”) and it was identified as a paraphrase of Psalm 74 and another tune of doubt. Aldo told us that Isaac Watts texts dated 1719 were all psalms. Gary observed that, like many psalms, it asks, Why do the people of God suffer? And Jason noted that it was a Jewish text here taken for a Christian situation.
114 SAINTS DELIGHT (“When I can read my title clear / To mansions in the skies”), a 1707 Watts text and so not a psalm, but a free standing hymn.
448t CONSECRATION (“Mold as thou will my passive clay / But let me all thy stamp receive”) and Gary noted that potters’ stamps were reserved for the good pots; the failures, unstamped, would be thrown back into the clay.
Merv had asked about the “third heaven” and we sang
299 NEW JERUSALEM (“From the third heaven where God resides”). Gary said the layering and labeling of heaven was a Hellenistic concept adopted into Christianity.
297 CONVERSION (“My tongue broke out in unknown strains”) and we discussed its relation to the day of Pentecost, to a more general “speaking in tongues,” and possibly to “strains” of music. Gary related its use here to “outbreaks of pietism” around the turn of the 19C.
Gary took a moment to offer a few more identifications. The GOSPEL POOL (see 34t) was a real place, the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, of which it was said that from time to time an angel would pass by and stir the waters, and whoever bathed in the waters so disturbed could be healed. Mention of BABEL’S STREAMS (see 126) signals a song of exile, JUBILEE (144) speaks of the every seven-, or every fifty-year sabbath and forgiveness of debt, NEW TOPIA (215) is a pun on the utopian hopes and communities of the period, and the MERCY SEAT is specifically the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, between angels’ wings. LABAN (147b) was Jacob’s deceitful father in law, and MARS HILL in Rome was where St. Paul taught that the “unknown god” was the god of Abraham. Emma led
517 MARS HILL (“How shall the young secure their hearts / And guard their lives from sin?”), suggesting it was a kind of “meta-song” (“That holy book shall guide our youth / And well support our age”). led
391 SOUNDING JOY (“Oh, may I never read in vain”) as another meta-song (and another Watts 1719 psalm text, presumably)
Paul tested us with a reading from MOBY DICK and led us in
66 JORDAN (“Could we but climb where Moses stood / And view the landscape o’er”)
and Mary Jane made the connection with Mt Pisgah as Moses’ scenic overlook and led
60 DAY OF WORSHIP (“Dear people, we have met today / To sing, to hear, to preach and pray; / It is our Father’s great command / The road that leads to his right hand. / But oh, the sad and awful state / Of those who stand and come too late, / The foolish virgins did begin / To knock, but could not enter in”). Those hopeful virgins waiting for their Bridegroom! Gary alluded to the “romance” of the soul, connecting it to the Kabbalistic theme of love between God and the Spirit and even to Sufism.
We finished with
229 IRWINTON, Merv
67 COLUMBUS Stina (“My God has me of late forsook,” but concluding, “When I’m tried sufficiently / I shall come forth as gold”)
Closer: 464 SHEPPARD (“How beauteous are their feet / Who stand on Zion’s hill) Gary and Jason.
Thanks to everyone who asked a question or offered a comment, and particularly to Jason and Gary for their thoughtful responses.