Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fa Sol La Part I

I wanted to write this well crafted blog about my new found enthusiasm for shape note singing. But I only got as far as saving it in the edit phase with two sentences and a discontinued link to a website under construction. So I thought I'd try another angle.
I was trying to think of the reasons I have become so fascinated with shape note singing and the first thing that came to me was my childhood. My father was a chaplain for 20 years in the US Army. And before that he was a minister at a church in a small logging town in Oregon. I can't remember the first hymn tune I learned, or the first one I heard, but I can remember the joy I felt sitting next to my mom(when my dad was preaching) or both my parents and hearing them sing from the hymnal, sometimes looking down at the notes and the words, sometimes looking up at the alter, knowing the tune by heart. I would look around the room and see some people with their eyes closed, not even needing to look at the book. When I got to be about middle school age my goal became to learn harmony to the hymns I knew so well. My mother would sing treble with her beautiful soprano and I would weave my voice around hers in alto or tenor companionship. If I didn't always enjoy the sermon, which tended to happen especially when we had a southern baptist chaplain on post, I nearly always felt a connection to, and a feeling of happiness with my inner self, my family, and my god while the congregation sang. The churches I worshipped in usually had a piano or organ for accompaniment. When we lived in Germany we were blessed with an incredible organist who was classically trained and would play Bach and Wieder before the start of the service. There were pianists, organists, and sometimes a choir. If I could choose one experience that stands out for me as unique, though, I would pick the times we sang acapella. To be able to hear all the voices, men, women, children, quavery, melodious, airy or booming, without aid of accompaniment, this was something that felt special and made for a more intimate setting during worship.

That leads me to shape note singing...