Two mother songs

From a posting that started with the shapenote song Family Circle (#333 in the Sacred Harp, Denson Revision):

At shapenote singing on Sunday (which was Mothers Day), we sang a fair number of songs with mother in their texts. Some are decidedly odd, but one was an old friend, Family Circle (the music is included in my posting on “Come Thou Fount”; “And rejoice, O my mother” is in the chorus).

On to two of the odd songs: the sentimental The Dying Boy (#398) and the touching The Bride’s Farewell (#359b) — two songs that are very rarely sung.

The Dying Boy:

Not a catchy tune; you can hear it sung here, in the Octagon Chapel (Unitarian) in Norwich, Norfolk, England:

The words are unattributed, but the music is by Georgian Henry Smith Reese (1828-1922). According to Baptist Biography (1920), “He was a teacher of singing, and a composer of a number of songs, both of the words and the music, in the ‘Sacred Harp’ and other song books.” He has 11 compositions in the Sacred Harp, including The Bride’s Farewell:

As I said in an earlier posting (on Murillo’s Lesson, #358, which goes on to a second page that has The Bride’s Farewell at the bottom of it), this song is “a commentary on family life in 19th-century rural America; note that the words are by a woman.” This was a time and place in which (as in many cultures in the world) a woman passed, on marriage, from being in effect the property of her father to being in effect the property of her husband; in any case, she was wrenched from the family of her birth and transferred to her husband’s family. So marriage was a parting. Its dark view of marriage (and husbands — “One to trust who may deceive me”) might have contributed to this song’s lack of popularity, though (like The Dying Boy) it’s also not especially tuneful.

Like many early shapenote songs, this one is set in three rather than four parts, with a missing alto line. (Alto lines were added later to many songs.)

A computer-generated rendition (from Sacred Harp Bremen (Germany) — shapenote singing gets around) is available here.

One Response to “Two mother songs”

  1. Holidays and events | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] my posting last year on Mother’s Day, I reflected on the Sacred Harp hymn The Bride’s Farewell […]

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