frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

A Sacred Harp Mitzvah

An account of yet another Sacred Harp singing is below the cut.

They got a good crowd, probably around sixty or seventy all told. And a number of students from Moody Bible College turned up for part of the day. This singing has always been receptive to new music, and this year it became a two-book singing. Enough people brought copies of the new Missouri Harmony that we were able to do some serious singing from that book.

There is some good music in there. We've sung from it since Memorial Day weekend in our local singing, but this was a chance to hear some of that music with a large, confident group, and the difference was amazing. "Ten Thousand Charms" seems to be taking the Sacred Harp community by storm, and for good reason -- that tune just soars with a large group. But there are some other real gems in there -- "Boulder" has finally been published, as has "Iowa," and there are some nice earlier works as well. I was particularly impressed with "St. Martins," a 1748 tune by William Tans'ur. I've led that at our Sunday singings a couple of times, and it was good to hear it sung with confidence.

My friend Bruce has finished his first CD, and he'll release it formally at the end of the month. Mazel tov, Bruce!

The memorial lesson was extremely emotional, as expected. The Chicago group has lost three members in the last few months -- Dean Slaton, Al Frank, and Vi Stark. Vi, the most recent death, sang regularly in Hyde Park and requested that the group come to sing for her a day or two before she died. They did, of course. There could be no question about that.

Suzanne Flandreau, who spoke for the dead, got all choked up at first, and then segued into speaking about Al Frank, who was a big presence in every way in Chicago. She told a story about how he had been out at a conference in the wilds of upstate New York (or possibly Canada) and heard about a new singing starting up fifty miles away. He hopped right in his car and drove out to lend his voice. "It was," he told Suzanne later, "a Sacred Harp mitzvah." Something that one must do that also carries a blessing when one does it. Suzanne hopes that the concept of a Sacred Harp mitzvah will spread. Like singing for Vi before she died. Then she led "Easter Anthem" as the song for the dead, for Al. I don't think I've ever heard of "Easter Anthem" used as a memorial lesson tune before, but it fit that one. Jim Swanson, the chaplain, closed the lesson speaking of death as one of the many gifts given to humans.

The singing got extremely powerful after dinner. I don't think I've ever heard the singing room in Quaker House get quite that loud before. There were a couple of babies hanging around, and as always, they were entirely unfazed by the noise level.

I miss Vi. We sang "Amsterdam" specially for her.

Amazingly enough, we were all still able to talk at the end of the singing. The Chicago singers took advantage of that to ask when I'd be returning to Chicago. I told them I was working on the application to the University and would they please do their part and make blood sacrifice to the ethnomusicology department.

All in all, another excellent, if somewhat ad hoc, effort by the Hyde Park singers.
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