Confidence (and Bear Creek)

(About music rather than language.)

Came to consciousness yesterday to the sound  of the shapenote hymn Confidence (270 in the 1991 Sacred Harp, Denson Revision, in a recording of the Alabama State Sacred Harp Convention, 1991-93 — one of seven recordings I have of it), notable for one little rhythmic touch in performance. And then while I was copying this one, I also copied the preceding song, 269 Bear Creek, a fuguing song (with ten thousand angels) that’s a old favorite.

The setting of Confidence:

The song is in duple meter, two beats per measure, with a very strong downbeat. So it moves fast, alternating strong and weak beats — until tempter yield in the chorus, when both beats of tempter are heavily accented in performance, giving a suddenly insistent effect. Not in the printed music, of course, but then much of what happens in performance has no indication in the printed music.

Confidence is also notable in having counter-melodies in the treble line (the top staff, often high harmony) and the tenor line (the third staff, with the official melody line). As a male treble, I appreciate being given a counter-melody every so often.

Four singings on YouTube, two from New England and two from Texas:

2009 Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Singing Convention

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village 2012 Sacred Harp Singing, New Gloucester, Maine

Southwest Theological Seminary, Fort Worth Texas 1-28-2012

Coker UMC Hour 3 San Antonio Texas 1991

On to 269 Bear Creek, a song with impeccable shapenote credentials: text by Isaac Watts, settting by William Billings. This is one of the very first Sacred Harp songs I remember singing with the Palo Alto group, which took it at a (to me) terrifying clip. (Until you become familiar with the song, the key to getting through the fuguing chorus is to concentrate on your part single-mindedly. Eventually you’ll get to appreciate the other parts and hear how they fit with yours.) The setting:

Four YouTube videos, from Maine, Chicago, Texas, and Alabama (the last being notably fast):

Sacred Harp Singing Union Maine 2011

April 29th Midwest Sacred Harp Convention [Chicago] 2012

Texas Sacred Harp Singers, College Station, Texas 2-25-2012

96th Annual Henagar Union Convention, Liberty Church, Henagar, Alabama June 30, 2012

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