Pen - Triangles

Pen - Triangles - _ n. A ,YJr-e‘i “i Pen, Ron. 1997....

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Unformatted text preview: _ n. A ,YJr-e‘i “i Pen, Ron. 1997. “Triangles, Squares, Circles and Diamonds: The ‘liasoia’ Folk and their Singing Tradition,” Musics of Multicultural America: A Study of Twelve Musical Communities. New York: Schirmer Books, 209—232. PTER 9 Triangles) Squares} Circles} ancl Diamonds The: “Fascia Folk” anci Their Singing Traciition Ron Pen in his chapter on the “fasola folk,” music professor and Sacred Harp singer and teacher Ron Pen narrates the history and contemporary life of an American singing tradition that may be characterized as the quintessential expression of white, Anglo-Celtic ethnicity. Prior to American independence, immigrant colonists developeda musical performance practice for religious worship that was distinctly difierent from thatiof their European forebears. Pen traces the develop- ment-ofpsalm singing fi'om its first manifestations in New England through the migration of singing schools to the South, the rise. of white spirituals, gospel hymnocly at camp meetings, and the evolution of rerivalism and traditionalism ~ in shape—note singing today. These distinct singing styles and their respective communities of performers are bound to two volumes of sacred-harp music: The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp. During each historical stage, the musical tradition has been marked by a particular repertoire of sacred music, an approach to teaching and performing that repertoire, and a uniquely American version of music theory and performance practice, In his analysis of two tribu— taries of the same stream, Pen points to the continuitz of thelfamilz- and com— munity— perpetuated ftraclition of'I‘he Southern Harmony, in which the “authen— W W ‘ticity of practice” is surely, if tenuously, guaranteed by the fragile line of oral transmission dating at least hack to 1884. The practiceof The Sacred Harp, on the other hand, is a Wusiwfl America, whose proponents may have little or no connection to the amil , com« munity, and religious genetics of the authentic tradition. Contemporary Sacred Awwwuflfl Harp sings, which are held regularly throughout the nation, hold attraction for 210 | Musics of Multiculturai America Americans because of the powerful sound and experience of The Sacred Harp and the creation ofa community through musical performance. fifllfi BIG SINGENG DAY iN KENTUCKY The day dawns bright and beautiful this fourth Sunday in May in the cozy town of Benton, Kentucky. Located in the far western part of the state in a remote and rural area known as the Jackson Purchase, Benton, with a popu- lation of 3,899, is the seat of Marshall County and home to the venerable Big Singing Day. As you stroll along the quiet, tree-shaded street on the way to the courthouse, you glance at the bronze marker stating, “The Big Singing in Benton is the oldest musical tradition in the United States.” Then you enter the redwbrick courthouse and ciinab the stairs to the spacious main court— room where you see generations of friends, family, and visitors miliing about in animated conversation—ma scene that has been reenacted every year since 1884. At ten-thirty in the morning, with his well—worn copy of the Southern Harmony and Musical Companion grasped firmly in hand, Frank Nichols strides purposefully to the front of the judges’ bench and calls out “Number 203, Holy Manna.” Nichols is president of the Bank of Benton and a member of an extended family that has been intertwined with the singing for genera— tions. His warmly resonant voice sings out the introductory fawlafso—la-fa syl— lables that provide the singers with the pitch of the opening chord. Slowly gathering vocal steam, like a train rolling out of the station, the assembled singers join in, the words resounding round the old courthouse like distant _ thunder. “Brethren we have rnet to worship, and adore the Lord our God. Wili you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the word.” It is “Big Singing Day” again in Benton, Kentuckyand compliant with the 113~year tradition, the “fasola folk” have met to sing the shape-note hymns whose roots stretch back to the earliest days of the American colonies. KENTUCKY SACRED HARP CONVENHON IN WOODFORD COUNTY The day dawns bright and beautiful this Saturday in May at the Academy Building of Pisgah Presbyterian Church in the rolling countryside of Woodford County, Kentucky. Located in the central Bluegrass region, Pisgah Church, built in 1784, is the home of the Kentucky State Sacred Harp Convention hosted by the Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers. As you drive up the country lane to the church you pass the oak—shaded old Triangles, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds 211 graveyard where Revolutionary War soidiers, farmers, and former governors alike now rest. Carrying your copy of the Sacred Harp and a covered dish for the noontime “dinner on the grounds,” you enter the old stone academy building and see friends and visitors milling about in animated conversa— tionwa scene that has been reenacted every Saturday before the second Sunday in May since 1980. At nine o’clock, with his well—worn copy of the Sacred Harp grasped firmly in hand, the author strode to the middle of the hollow square, wei— comed the fifty singers gathered in the resonant meeting bail, and calied out “Number 58, Pisgah, in honor of this iovely church where we are meeting today.” After pitching the song with the traditional fn—so-la, the singers join in with the syilables indicated by the triangle, square, circle, and diamond shapes of the notes. Like the loud rush of a Kentucky mountain stream, the heartfelt words of the hymn gain force and tumble throughout the old hall, “lesus, thou art the sinner’s friend, As such I iook to thee.” The Kentucky Sacred Harp Convention is meeting again at Pisgah Church, and compliant with tradition, the “i'asola folk” have gathered to sing the shape-note hymns whose roots stretch back to the earliest days of the American colonies. COLONlAL AMERICAN ROOTS Musical culture in the New Engiand colonies was heaviiy infiuenced by Protestant Calvinist theology, which considered the 150 Biblical psairns of David the only pmper music for worship. These psalms were intended to be sung simply, in unison with every'voice on the same melody, and without instrumental accompaniment so that the words were cleariy understood. Because of the general illiteracy and scarcity of books in eighteenth-century America, however, colonists adopted a performance technique called lining out, in which communities sang in a call—and—response manner. The leader, or deacon, would call out a line of the text, for example, “When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,” and the congregation would then slowly echo the line by singing it as a group. Even though the congregation was sup— posedly singing a single unaccompanied version of the meiody, individuals personally ornamentedand varied the melody in a musical texture known as heterophony After years of such alteration, the psalm tempos became incred~ ibly slow and melodies were transformed by quantities of added notes. Consequentiy, psalms took ten times as long to sing as they had formerly and ' the original tunes were distorted beyond recognition. Thomas Waiter, a con— temporary writer, described the process as follows: “For much time is taken up in shaking out these turns and quavers, and besides, no two men in the congregation quaver alike, or together; which sounds in the ears of a good judge, like five hundred different tunes roared out at the same time” (Walter 1721, 4M5). 212 Musics of Multicultural America Harvardcducated clerics who were greatiy upset by the style of this singing called it “a horrid mediey of confused and disorderly noises” and “the uncouth noise of untuned ears.” Writers such as Thomas Symmes called for an end of lined out singing and a return to “reguiar” singing through a return to reading music notation. As a result, in 1721 Boston witnessed the first - singing school devoted to teaching members of a community how to read music and sing in harmony. Popular as both an educational and recreational experience, singing schools soon spread throughout New England. By the end of the century, singing schools had traveled down through Pennsylvania and west along the Shenandoah Valiey into the southern frontiers of Virginia and Kentucky. SENGING SCHOOLS Singing schools were taught by a traveling singing school master who settled in a community for a period of two or three weeks. Singing masters seldom had any formal musical training, instead they generaily apprenticed through par— ticipation in singing schools themselvesmall that was required was a keen ear, a strong voice, and a burning desire to travel in order to spread this music. In compensation for his instruction, the teacher would customarily be provided with meals and lodging and given a small fee for each student. Arnzi Chapin {l768-1835), a singing schoolmaster working in Kentucky, had the following agreement: “We the subscribers do promise to pay unto Amzi Chapin nine shillings for each person whom we subscrihe to instruct thern in the Art of Music. Twenty six days. Payment to he made at the expiration of the term.” Meeting in the evening, after the day’s chores were completed, the singing master would begin by instructing the class in the rudiments of music theory, teaching the students how to read rhythms and how to foliow steps of the scale by reading the pitches on the rnusic staff. After the class gained enough profi— ciency in the rudiments, he would then ieacl them in singing parts to some of the less complex hymns. First, the class wouid iearn the air, or melody, which was in the tenor voice, and once they had mastered that, they wouid ’oegin reading the other partsmireble (soprano), counter (alto ), and bass. As the stu- dents gained confidence in their ability to read music at sight, they proceeded to learn more challenging music until the final singing lecture, a graduation cer— emony in which they presented a public concert to demonstrate their achieve— ments. The purpose was pedagogical, the atmosphere was morally uplifting, but it is clear from this Yale student’s journal entry of 1782 that the singing school also provided a much-needed social outlet. At present I have no inclination for anything, for I am almost sick of the world and were it not for the hopes of going to the singing meeting tonight and induiging myself a little in the carnal deiights Triangles, Squares. Circles, and Diamonds 213 of the flesh, such as kissing and squeezing etc, l should willingly leave it now. (Lowens i964, 282) SINGING SCHOOLS The eariy iined out psalrn singing style required only a book with the words of the psalms printed for use by the song leader. Because the congregation merely echoed the leader’s line of text and followed the wellwknown melodies by ear in lined out style, a single copy of a booit was ail that was really need ed for performance. Singing schoois, however, required a book for every par— ticipant since each singer was sight reading the words and music for their individual harmony lines. lohn Tufts {1689—4750) printed the first book suitable for use with the singing schools. His A Very Plain and Easy IntroductiOn to the Singing of Psalm Tunes (c. i 724.) was a short, twelve—page volume containing thirty-seven tunes written for treble, tenor, and bass voice parts. As the book’s purpose was to teach illiterate colonists to read music, Tufts sought an innovative system that would be more clear and eaSy to read than conventional European notation. He placed letters of a sslfege system on a five-iine staff rather than the usual “round notes.” Thus, he used the letter F for the pitch fa, the letter S for so, L ' for In, and M for mi. Today, we commonly use seven syliables—do, re, mi, fa, figure 9.1. Melody and bass lines of Old 100 as printed in A Very Plain and Easy Introduction to the Singing of Psalm Tunes by John iufts. Transcription lay Larry Nelson, University of Kentucky. 214 Musics of Muiticuitural America so, in, ti, domto teach students how to read music, but Tufts employed an ear— iier English system that only used the four syllabies fa, 50, la, and mi to indi- cate the pitches of the scale and show the distance, or interval, between one note and the next. The rhythms were also represented by a simple, yet innovative, system. The ietter alone was worth a quarter note (F), a letter with a period foilow— ing it was a half note (E), and a letter foliowed by a colon was a whole note (F1). The inventive notational solutions of Tufts were typical of the American process of culturai adaptation in which we retained aspects of “oid world” British culture and transformed them to suit our new situation. Psalmody m ' “music in America” rather than “American music,” but the risaof—t-hesingfl school soon led to the first distinctive mmpr’essiofif of the American colomésr'w 7 NEW ENGLAND Tnfts’s book opened the floodgates to a whole generation of New England singing masters who composed their own original music as weli as collected and arranged earlier music in their publications. In addition to the psalm tunes inherited from Britain, such Yankee singing masters as Wiiliarri Biliings added new plain times, vigorous fuging tunes, and extended anthems that explored the expressive reiationship between words and music. Plain tunes were short “Chorale style” works in which ail the voices moved homophoni— rally (rhythmically together) to complement metrical strophic texts of repeated verses. Fuging tunes began with a section in which ali the voices sang rhythmically together in fourupart harmony foilowed by an imitative section in which the voices chased each other as in a “round.” Anthems were more extended compositions with changes of tempo, different rhythms, and key changes that painted the meaning of the words through musical expres~ sion. This was a new American music suited to the temperament and needs of a new American peopie. ‘i This new singing schooi music clearly reflected the important question that was at the heart of America’s experiment in participatory democracy-m how was this country going to reconcile the tension between individual free» den: and the constraints oi social order. Each vocal line was fierceiy inde- pendent in following its own path. William Hauser, author of The Hesperian Harp, stated that each part should be “so good a melody that it will charm even when sung by itself” (Hauser 1848, xviii). Tenors, trebies, counters (altos), and basses ali possessed their own melodic direction that coexisted with the other independent parts in a loose confederation of harmony. The bass was not content merely to ploci sub- servientiy below the soprano melody and the counter refused to be reiegated to the supportive role of doubling harmony notes. Each part had its own dis— Triarrgles, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds 215 tinct melody that contributed a unique perspective to the total sound. Democracy can sometimes be a messy process, and occasionain the inde» pendent vocal parts clashed discordantly or tripped over themselves as they crossed paths with another part, but they aiways did so within a framework of collective order. SHAPED NOTES Despite the efforts of John Tufts to develop a clearer system of music nota— tion, musicians continued to use the conventional round notes for all singing schooi tune books through the eighteenth century. In 1798, however, William Little and Wiliiam Smith of Phiiadelphia invented an entireiy different way of indicating pitches, using various shapes to represent notes. Taking the four syilable fasola system used earlier by Tufts as the basis, Little and Smith sub- stituted differently shaped note heads for the letters as a visuai aid in reading rnusic. Thus, a triangie was used for fit, a circle for so, a square for In, and a diamond for mi. Unlike the commbn do-re—mi system where each of the seven pitches of the scale corresponds to a different sylia’ole, this shapemote fasola system has to repeat three of the syilables and their corresponding shapes twice within a scale; thus the entire scale would be sung for, so, In, fat, so, in, mi, fa. This is not reaily confnsing, however, since the note shapes are placed on a five-line staff - r regained; " Figure 9.2. C-major scaies for the four voice parts. Reprinted from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, edited by Glenn Wilcox, copyright © 1987 by the University Press of Kentucky, by permission of the pubiishers. 216 Musics of Muiticultural America and it is easy to distinguish the pitches by their relative height on the lines and spaces of the staff. It is also important to remember that the shapes only indi~ cate the relative placement in a scale and the interval between tones. The shapes do not represent fixed pitches as do notes on a piano. For instance, fa is the root and fourth of any major scale—in the key of C major, the fa cor- responds to the notes C and F, while in the key of D major fa corresponds to the notes D and G. Rhythms were indicated the same way as with round ' notes, with hoilow or shaded note heads and stems and beams. The combination of fasola syllables and the shape—note notation proved to be highiy successfui. Between the printing of Little and Smith’s The Easy Instructor in 1798 and the publication of The Social Harp in 1855, there were at least thirty—eight different tune books in circulation that all used the four shapes. Singing masters compiled and printed books for use in their own _ schools mat typically included an assortment of the most popular hymns excerpted from other books as well as original compositions and arrange« ments of vernacular rneiodies that were matched with sacred texts and adapt- ed for hymn use. In this way, the collective compiling work of various singing masters increased the singing school repertoire beyond the original British psalrn tunes through the inclusion of originai American compositions and adaptations. Like a living organism, shape—note repertoire eyoived in response to the changing tastes of musical America. Now as singing school masters followed the growing tide of migration to the southern and western frontiers, another rich layer of new shapemote hymnody, known as white spirituais, would further enrich the repertoire. WHITE SPlRiTUALS During the first decades of the nineteenth century, musical life in New England was altered by the rise of public school music education, an empha— sis on European “classical” music, and the immigration of trained profes- sional European musicians. Singing schoois and their folksy home—grown music became an endangered species in the urban centers of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Such reformist musicians as Lowell Mason, who condescendineg called shape notes “dunce notes,” established more formal— ized organizationsu—the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, for examplew and forced the singing schools to retreat to rural areas of New England and down through Pennsylvania into the wilderness areas of Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Kentuckians were especially receptive to singing schools. The first school was recorded in Lexington in 1797, and shortly thereafter subsequent singings spread thronghont the bluegrass region and into the mountains to the east and the Purchase area of the west. Southern singingaschooi masters aiso began compiling and publishing their own tunebooks. incorporating the Triangles, Squares, Circies, and Diamonds 217 contributions of Lucius and Amzi Chapin, who were living in Fleming County, Kentucky, John Wyeth puhlished the Repository of Sacred Music in mm. Six years later Ananais Davisson, who lived in the Shenandoah Vailey, printed his Kentucky Harmony and the following year Samuei Metcaif of Shelbyvilie, Kentucky, issued the Kentucky Harmonisr in Lexington. These first southern books were important becanse they introduced a whole new type of shape—note hymn based on indigenous music. Called white spirituals by scholar George Pullen Eackson, the new hymns married sacred texts of such authors as Isaac Watts, John Newton (author of Amazing Grace), and Charles Wesley with meiodies drawn from secular baliads, fiddie tones, and lyric songs. For exampie, the hymn “Sawyer’s Exit,” found in the Sacred Harp, couples the words “How bright is the day when the Christian receives the sweet message to come” to the bouncy lrish jig called “Rosin the Beau (Bow).” White spirituais blurred that fine iine between sacred and sec« ular since the same tune song at Saturday night’s froiic might be heard at Sunday mornings worship as well. ' The tunes are pnngently striking, with melodies often based on five- note pentatonic scales, or modal scales, that impart a high, lonesome sound reminiscent of the sound of Scottish bagpipes. Often composed for only three voice parts, by eliminating the counter line, they have a distinctiyeiy “hollow” qnaiity that sounds more “ancient” than the rounded chordal sonnd characteristic of classical harmonic practice. White spiritnals were enthnsias— tically embraced by the fasoia foik because the words contained vivid and colorfui imagery, the tunes were exciting, and the melodies were already familiar to many s0uthernezs through square dances or back—porch singings. CAMP MEETENGS At the turn of the century, a religious fervor known as the Great Revival, or The Second Great Awakening, swept through the country. In 1801 approxi— mately twenty—thousand people flocked to Cane Ridge Meeting House in Bourbon Coonty, Kentucky. Twenty thousand people drawn by wagon and mule and on foot along dirt roads, praying, ioudly singing, barking iike dogs, dancing wildiy, weeping, and jerking uncontrollably in the throes of religious ecstasy—the Woodstock of its day. Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist min- isters gathered and preached fire and'salyation to the crowds from wagon beds and tree stumps. The excitement kindled by this first huge camp meet- ing spread throughout the south and carried with it a new type of gospei hymnody that was added to the constantly expanding repertoire of shape note mnsic. Singing was an important means of exciting the passions of the crowds at a camp meeting. The rhythmic propnlsion and melodic surge of repeated refrains had the effect of simnltaneonsiy reinforcing key ideas as weil as 218 Musics of Multiculturai America " -- ss.‘m'r._u-‘i:t‘m. 21 Figure 9.3. Reprinted from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, edited by Gienn Wiicox, copyright © 1987 by the University i’ress of Kentucky, by permission of the pubiish- ers. inducing an out—of—body trance experience. Since people could not read words or music notation from books at a camp meeting, songs that were eas- ily learned had to be chosen so that people could immediateiy participate. Therefore, camp meeting gospel music had limited vocal ranges, catchy tunes, infectious danceiike rhythms, short verses, and choruses that could be repeated forever. Often the same verse could be repeated over and over Sim». ply by changing a few words. For instance, “Hebrew Children,” found in The Sacred Harp, has a repeating line, “Where are the Hebrew chiidren,” that may be changed to “Where are the twelve aposties” or “Where are the holy Christians,” to stretch out the song for numerous verses. SOUTHERN HARMONY AND THE SACRED HARP Approaching the middie of the nineteenth century, when Southern fasola singing was at the zenith of its popularity, two shape—note tune books, The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp, appeared Although simiiar in appearance and contents, they were destined for very different fates. The Southern Harmony would become frozen in time, preserved in a single tradi- tionai annual performance, Big Singing Day at Benton, Kentucky, while The Sacred Harp would become a iiving history told through various revisions and editions performed in hundreds of contemporary singings held throughout the United States to this very day. ' Triangies, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds 219 SOUTHERN HARMONY ORiGINS The two books had curiously intertwined origins. Wiiliain “Singin’ Billy” Walker and Beniamin Franklin White, both of Spartanburg, South Carolina, were brotherswinwlaw through their marriage to the Golightly sisters. The two men compiled The Southern Harmony together, but in 1835 Walker evident- ly took the book to New Haven, Connecticut, to get it printed and somehow faiied to credit White with his share of the authorship. The story may mere~ ly be fiction, but to this day the legend is still the source of good—natured ban— tering back and forth between adherents of the different books as though the schism between Walker and ‘Mhite were just a recent family unpleasantry. Walker was much in demand as a singing—school teacher and his Southern Harmony was the most popular tune book of the nineteenth centu- ry, selling approximately six hundred thousand copies, with a revision in 1847 and a final revision in i854. Unfortunately, the book’s further development was disrupted by the Civii War and Waiker’s subsequent decision to publish a new book, The Christian Harmony, in the seven—shape solfege system that was suppianting the four—shape notation. The life of a singing is tied to the life of a book. With the finai Southern Harmony published in 1854, the book would have become extinct were it not for a single community event sparked by the enthusiasm of Iarnes R. Lemon, editor and owner of the Benton Tribune. As a chiid, Lemon traveled from North Carolina with his famiiy over the Blue Ridge and Cumberland Mountains to Marshall County, Kentucky, in 1852. Packed away in the famiiy’s covered wagon was a copy of the Southern Harmonjc perhaps acquired directly from a singing school led by Wiliiam Walker himself. Lemon began teaching in singing schools as a young man and maintained a lifelong devotion to fasola music. Observing that the music of his youth was rapidly disappearing, Lemmon used the public forum of his paper to propose a generai gathering in Benton that would be devoted to singing from The Southern Harmony. Following that first Big Singing Day in 1884, the countywide famiiy reunion, coupled with the Southern Harmony singing, has become a locai tradition tenaciously maintained in the face of many cuitural changes that have threatened its existence over the years. One of the greatest challenges to the survival of the tradition was the scarcity of books. By the 19303 there were scarcely thirty of the precious and tattered 1854 editions stili availabie. Many peopie were singing from mento— ry. In 1931 George Pullen Jackson noted: The Southern Harmony singings at Benton are probably the last of their kind anywhere and dissolution stares thorn in the face. The only thing that can lengthen their life is a new suppiy of the song books with which the tradition is inseparany bound up. Will some worshipper at the shrine of “old»tirne songs” provide that Supply? {Iackson {1933} 1965, 67—68} 220 ' Musics of Multicultural America Fortunately, that “worshipper” appeared ciose at hand. The book that is the iifeblood of the tradition was reissued in 1939 by the Young Men’s Progress Club, and subsequently locai singer Dr. Glenn Wilcox published his Pro Music Americana edition in 1966. The book is stili in print today throngh a 1987 {ac simile edited by Wilcox and published by the University Press of Kentucky. SACRED HARP ORIGINS B. F. White moved to Georgia and collaborated with Elisha I. King to publish his own tone book, The Sacred Harp in 1844. White’s book shared many of the same tunes as Walker’s with the usual representation of New England composers, such as Wiliiam Billings and Daniel Read, and white spirituals by Davisson and the Chapins. in addition, nearly a quarter of the tunes in the book were written by, or at least attributed to, Georgia singers inciuding White, King, and White’s nephew 1. T. White. The success of a book depend- ed on the compiier’s abiiity to choose the best and most popuiar hymns for inclusion. Obviousiy White chose well, for The Sacred Harp has enjoyed a 150~year publishing history marked by the appearance of various revisions and many printings. The popular 1991 edition is currently in its third print- ing of three thousand copies. Popular in its time but nearly extinct today, The Southern Harmony would come to represent fasola as it was in mid-eighteenth—century South, while The Sacred Harp, with its continnous history of growth and change, wouid evolve to reflect the state of fascia singing at the end of the twentieth century. Foiks at Benton taik of the “purity” of their singing and complain about Sacred Harp innovations, such as “those ragtimey rhythms” and “that added counter part,” but it is exactly that element of change that doomed The Southern Harmony to museum status and contributed to The Sacred Harp’s roie in the rise of shape—note revivalism. For that reason, a comparison of Big Singing Day and the Kentucky Sacred Harp Convention represents a comprehensive portrait of community traditionalism and revivalism characteristic of shapewnote singing in American cnltore. Let us briefly define tradition as culture that is “bred in the bone,” passed on through oral transmission within an identifiable communi~ ty. Revivaiism consists of participation in a tradition by peopie who are not born into the traditional community yet who consciousiy choose to particiu pate in that community. 316 SENGING DAY The day dawns bright and beautiful this fourth Sunday in May as you enter the red~brici< courthouse and climb the stairs to the spacious wood—paneled triangles, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds 221 courtroom. At about ten o’clock foiks dressed in their Sunday finer begin to gather. Soon, excited knots of people form, catching up on ali the news and stories since they were last together. Patriarchal figures, such as Dr. Ray - Mofield and Dr. Glenn Wilcox, are busy with last—minute organizational details, maiting introductions and drawing up a list of the morning’s song leaders. Mrs. Tula Nichols and Miss Margaret Heath, resplendent in their “go- to-meeting” hats, are engaged in conversation with a young graduate student who is making her first visit to Benton. Young children dart between legs of parents, a sound engineer from Texas is adjusting microphones, iuncheon plans are discussed, area poiiticians shake hands with potential voters, recipes are traded, golf games recounted, and family and visitors alike are drawn into the sociai fabric woven at that first singing gathering of 1884. It is a tight social fabric, woven from a narrowly circumscribed geow graphic region and iimited social context. The community is defined by a common evangelical Protestant heritage—chiefly Primitive Baptist, Church of Christ, and Baptist. The singing itself is a secular event and is not associ— ated with any church, although there is a strongly morai foundation since ail the song texts are scriptural, and invocation and benediction prayers frame the day. . Members of the singing represent a homogenous ethnic stocit that is alrnost exclusively Anglo—Celtic in origin. Most of the singers are members of families that have been associated with the singing for generations, such as the Nichols famiiy. Marshail County is essentiain an agricuitural economy with Marc. flapksljfinuangip, l 103 - I , assanaaaannaasm' figment-harm, .aie' ' ' mammal.- _ -.;8n:kiizgfir_4a._lhdfill‘ wrgim' -- . I-nfifigfibsfiwmus - unnamxaaaqnam ,- '- ‘cmmsarmaemmer _- r_?wfiflgfmklueuia!mnl ,- 8'4: mmelbn’l, "flruhnaJu-‘a’nm grip: sonny “Wu -- . sag.“ Ezlypér pdgml’awmlz - “Yuma! punch: he}; man- my in naturist: man-1. ' . ' ' Shufiréfifimmprimdy. . mv-agfiiiifiifill-"l . V _ - Iglmiauudmlhum: _ - . r - Wiii en triplhé hinbiizg.mmm' ' -- r ; 3-1;?kade £01335“, . . "nvzaméxlmpgiinghinlfifihiin! _nEErprbAl-w'kutfi "wt-.9. ' Tea will mu mama, . - Tm as" all finijwiuceqhutzm Taitthmi'sewillbefv'unds- 'Atlflmiorylifldnn. _ '. 'rs. " .inaha’rgmmu , Wampnznwfigmauma -'=' v Win gamma :11 "Mad. Within-ca mum Hans-L :Amlaurxhik‘rm assist-em and hat; waif 9&1}! mend. Figure 9.4. Reprinted from The-Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, edited by Glenn Wilcox, copyright © 1987 by the University Press of Kentucky, by permission of the pubiishu ers. 230 Musics of Multicultural America chicken and corn bread, and a host of home—baked pies and fresh strawber— ry Shortcake. Nothing forges a community more tightly than shared song, conversation, and a good meal. At one o’clock the afternoon session is convened and the singing con— tinues in the same vein as the morning. Approximately forty hymns, fuging tunes, and anthems are attempted before the afternoon draws to an end with Parting Friends, the song the Appalachian Association traditionally uses to conclude its singings. Farewell my friends, l’m bound for Canaan, I’m trav’ling through the Wilderness. Your company has been delightful. It has been a long day. Empty casserole dish and Sacred Harp in hand, you climb in your car and head back down Pisgah Pike. Fragments of songs, bits of stories, a haunting melody, a new face, and the taste of fresh stravw berries, are all woven together in a memory quilt that accompanies you down the highway home. FINAL THOUGHTS Big Singing Day and the Kentucky Sacred Harp Convention are tenuous sure vivals of the past that have lingered into the end of the twentieth century. The original function and context of singing schools has been permanently altered by contemporary culture, but the infusion of revivalist energy flow- ing into the steady stream of tradition has invested this uniquely American ' heritage with meaning and vigor. In a fragmented modern society, family has been preserved and community established through shared song. Singers in Benton are born into shape-note singing early in life through a traditional family background. Singers may chose to become involved in Sacred Harp singing later in life, through a revivalist introduction. Either way, at some point the singer must make a conscious choice to identify her— self or himself with the tradition, and in so doing, they become yet another voice in the unbroken lineage of fasola singing stretching back to the American colonies. GLOSSARY air. The principal melody in a shapeunote hymn that is sung by the tenor voice. anthem. An extended vocal work with a througncornposed text. Anthems often contain changes of key, rhythm, or meter to illustrate the words and provide variety. bass. The lowest singing part, usually sung only by men. can; Triangles, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds 231 Big Singing Day. Held annually on the fourth Sunday in May since 1884., Big Singing Day in Benton, Kentuciiy meets at the Courthouse in a morning and afternoon session to sing from The Southern Harmony, a shapewnote songbook by William Walker. counter. The voice part calied the alto today. This is the lowest part for female voices. fuging tune. Originating in eighteenth-century America, the fuging tune is a musical compo— sition in two sectionsmthe first is a homophonic, sung in “chOrdal” style; the second, with imitative entries, is similar to a “round.” heterophony. A musical texture in which all voices are singing a singie melody, but each voice personalizes the melody through rhythmic and melodic ornamentation. intervai. The musical distance between any two pitches. lining out. A singing technique in which a leader sings out a line of text that is then echoed by a group of singers in callvand-response style. This makes it easy for singers to participate even when they are not musicaiiy literate or songbooks are unavailable. modal scale. Diatonic scaleswsuch as the dorian, for examplewwthat are built on various pat- terns of half and whole steps but. which sound archaic because of a particular interval that differentiates them from the more conventional major and minor scales. pentatonic scale. A five-note scale. One pentatonic scale may be represented by playing the black keys of a piano. revivalisrn. Participation in a traditional culture by individuals who are foreign to that culture but who cunsciousiy choose to participate in it. singing school. Originating in the New England colonies in the eighteenth century, singing schools were designed to teach singing by reading music notation. Typically, they taught the rudiments of theory and instructed students in sightwreading hymns, fuging tunes, and anthems during a three—week period. singing—school master. Singing masters usually traveled to communities where they stayed for three weeirs to instruct a school in return for bed, board, and stipend. Some masters com- piled and printed their own tunebooks for use in their schools. soifége. A method of singing instruction that uses syllabies corresponding to music pitches as a means for learning to sing scales and intervals. traditionalism. Folk culture disseminated through oral transmission within an identifiable community. treble. The top singing part usually called the soprano today. In fasola singing, men and women sang the treble part in their own register. white spirituals. Southernashape note hymns that coupled familiar melodies drawn from such sources as ballads and dance tunes with sacred texts written by such authors as Isaac Watts. COMPANiON CD SELECTIONS Track 19. The Southern Harmony, led by Ray Mofier, “Holy Manna.” Track 20. The Southern Harmony, led by Ron Pen, “Promised Land.” 232 Musics of Multicultural America ADDITiONAL SOURCES Bibliography Cobb, Bueil 2., Ir. 1978. The Sacred Harp: A Tradition and Its Music. Athens, Ga; University of Georgia Press. Paperback, i989. HansenWiiiiarn. 1848. The Hesperian Harp. Philadelphia. iacitson, George Pullen. 1933. White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, i965. ioftis, Deborah Carlton. 1987. Big Singing Day in Benton, Kentucky: Study of the History, Ethnic Identity, and Musical Styles of the Southern Harmony Singers. i’hD. Diss, University of Kentucky. Lowens, irving. 1964. Music and Musicians in Early America. New York: W. W. Norton and Co. Saboi, Steven L. 1996. Sacred Harp and Related Shape—Note Music Resources. Published by the Author. Available from Steven Sabol, 5564 Lincoln St, Bethesda, Md. 26817. Walker, William. 1987. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Facsimile of the 3854 edition. With an introduction by Glenn C. Wilcox. Lexington, Ky; University Press of Kentucky. Walter, Thomas. 1721. The Grounds and Rules of Musiclc Explained: Or an Introduction to the Art of Singing by Note. Boston: 1. Franklin for Samuel Gerrish. White, Beniamin Franklin, and Elisha 1. King. White. 1991. The Sacred Harp. Edited by Hugh McGraw et al. Bremen, Ga; Sacred Harp Publishing Company. Original edition. Audiography White Spirituals from the Sacred Harp: TheAlabarna Sacred Harp Convention. 1992. New World 80205~2. CD remastered from original 1959 recording made by Alan Lomax at Fyffe, Alabama. Companion CD to The Southern Harmony 1987. CD-9354. In The Southern Harmony, pub» lished by the University Press of Kentucky. This recording presents live performances from Big Singing Day octween i966 and i992. Holy Manna. LP recorded by Society for the ?reservation of Southern Harmony Singing. Available from Benson Blackie, 1615 Dunn Cemetery Road, Benton, Ky. 42825. The Social Harp: Early American Shape-Note Songs. 1977. Roonder CD 0094. Performed by singers from Georgia and Alabama, led by Hugh McGraw. TheVColored Sacred Harp. 1993. Rounder CD 80433-2. i’erformed by the Wiregrass Singers of Ozark, Alabama. {ed by Dewey Williams, this is a recording of the African-American Sacred Harp tradition. Sounding joy. 1999. CD available from Ted Mercer, 1807 West North Ave.,'Chicago, Iii. 60622. This recording of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association is representative of current Sacred Harp singing style and features northern and southern singers. ".T i 'l .l CHAPYER 'Efl The Memphis Airican American Sacred Quartet Community Kip Lornell Lornell is an American vernacular music historian with strong ties to cultur— al geography, folklore, and ethnomusicology. He teaches in Washington, D. C., and works on masic~related projects for the Smithsonian Institution. Based on field« work accomplished‘over a three-year period in Memphis, this chapter focuses on a tradition that had been previously overlooked in the world of African American music in general. Lornell examines the importance of families in maintaining musical continuity and the role of quartet trainers (who are viewed as musical specialists) in shaping the sound ofquartets. The importance of transmitting reli- gious values and religiosity in general is another theme explored by the author. The contexts for quartet performancesmchurches, community halls, and conw tests—and the relationship ( and tension) between this religious expression and popular music provides a backdrop to the entire article. Finally, Lornell discusses the reasons for the decline in popular interest in quartets and why some of the groups have persisted in singing in this style. EEE PROLOGUE The genesis of this study may be traced back to 1979 when I moved to _ Memphis to become one of the first students in the newly founded doctoral program in Southern Regional Music and Ethnomusicoiogy at the University of Memphis. With my interest in fieldwork—oriented projects and African American masic, I soon decided that it would make sense to choose a local subject for research and, ultimately, as a dissertation topic. i knew Memphis ...
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