A Preview of The Shenandoah Harmony

I am pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of The Shenandoah Harmony, a new four-shape tunebook that will include about 450 songs in a compact format suitable for regular or all-day singing.  The music committee includes John Del Re, Kelly Macklin, and Leyland Del Re of Virginia; Nora Dunn of Maryland; and Daniel Hunter, Myles Louis Dakan, and Rachel Hall of Pennsylvania.  The expected publication date is late 2012.

The Shenandoah Harmony music committee (from left): Leyland, Myles, Kelly, Dan, Nora, John, Rachel. Photo by John Alexander.

The Shenandoah Harmony music committee (from left): Leyland, Myles, Kelly, Dan, Nora, John, Rachel. Photo by John Alexander.

The original inspiration for The Shenandoah Harmony was to create a collection of the best songs published by Ananias Davisson from 1816 to 1825 in the Shenandoah Valley.  These works include five editions of the Kentucky Harmony and three editions of the Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony, which combine New England composed tunes with the arranged folk melodies of the era.  In addition to songs from Davisson’s books, The Shenandoah Harmony includes folk hymns from the Chapins, Ingalls, Walker, McCurry, Hauser, and their contemporaries; additional early New England compositions, including some never before printed in shapes; and modern four-shape compositions.

The music committee has been meeting monthly for over a year and a half and reviewed over 1,300 songs (not counting the hundreds of songs reviewed by individual members of the committee), choosing about 450 for the book.  Following the traditional practice, we have edited–and occasionally arranged–some of these songs with the goal of making them suitable for class singing.  We are on track to finish typesetting and proofreading this summer. We have produced an 84-page preview packet for our first annual all-day Shenandoah Harmony singing in Millwood, Virginia on the first Sunday in June.  The packet is available for free download on our web site.

Four songs from The Shenandoah Harmony

We’ve chosen four of our favorite songs to highlight the variety in our book.

"Psalm 30" (1813), arr. Lucius or Amzi Chapin.

“Psalm 30” is in the same tune family as p. 33b “Abbeville,” Davisson’s “Golden Hill,” and Ingalls’ “The General Doom.”  Its first publication was in Patterson’s Church Music (1813); however, Nikos Pappas has found this arrangement of “Psalm 30” in a manuscript by Amzi Chapin, probably late 1790s. This recording is from the Keystone Sacred Harp Convention 2012.

"Consolation New" from the Shenandoah Harmony.

“Consolation New” is a collaboration “beyond the bounds of time and space” (to quote from Wesley’s lyrics): the tenor and bass are from Wyeth’s Repository, Part Second (1813) and Davisson added the treble in the 1820s in his Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony. We found that none of the original three parts were singable for altos. Our friends Robert Stoddard, Becky Wright, Bethany Towne, and Nathan Berry helped write this alto part. This recording is from the Keystone Sacred Harp Convention 2012.

"Stony Island" (1994) by Richard Popp.

Named for a Chicago neighborhood, Richard Popp’s “Stony Island” (1994) is a modern shapenote composition originally published in The New Millennium Harp (2001). Popp’s use of modal harmony reminds us of the frontier sound of Davisson’s books. This recording is from the Northern Shenandoah Valley All-Day Shenandoah Singing, 2012.

"Sinai" by Merit Woodruff (1780–1799).

We first encountered “Sinai” (1801) in Hauser’s Hesperian Harp (1848). It is the best known composition of the teenaged Woodruff, who drowned at the age of nineteen. Back in the day, the alto, or counter, part was often sung by boys, and we like to think that Merit wrote this fantastic alto part to sing himself. This recording is from the Northern Shenandoah Valley All-Day Shenandoah Singing, 2012.

Compiling and editing The Shenandoah Harmony has been a fascinating process that has given us all a much greater appreciation for the many composers, arrangers, and book editors who worked and continue to work in the four-shape tradition. We would especially like to thank the many singers and singing communities who have welcomed us, helped audition new songs, contributed numerous hours typesetting and proofreading, and provided financial assistance. For more information, please visit our web site shenandoahharmony.com.

About Rachel Wells Hall

Rachel first sang from The Sacred Harp with her mother in the 1980s in Cincinnati and returned to singing in Philadelphia in 2009. She is a member of the Shenandoah Harmony music committee.
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3 Responses to A Preview of The Shenandoah Harmony

  1. Pingback: Check us out in the Sacred Harp Newsletter! | Shenandoah Harmony

  2. Chloe Webb says:

    What a wonderful introduction to The Shenandoah Harmony! It’s evident a lot of hard, devoted work went into the new tune book. The audio clips make me eager to sing, too. (I love the second page appearing right on cue!)

  3. Pingback: New Issue of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter | Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg

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