Harmony v Unison

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Harmony v Unison

Postby James » Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:04 pm

I met Chris today at his church. I hope we will find a way to get together in person more often.

The service was good. The sermon was great. One old issue in hymnody came front and center.

The issue is unison or harmony. The catalyst for my thoughts was the hymn Be Thou My Vision. The choir sang an anthem arrangement of the hymn tune Slane in four part harmony. A little later the whole congregation sang the hymn out of the 91 hymnal. The first arrangement was beautiful. The second was emotionally flat. The reason for this was emotional and theological. The harmonies highlight the beauty of the text. The text is beautiful as a poem. The unison tune does nothing for it in my opinion.

Baptists are not and never will be lock step conformists to any doctrine or creed and our singing reflects it. We come to God in worship and raise our voices in four part harmony. We are different individuals yet our different parts create a whole that is one blended sound and one blended message. Each part contributes to the whole.

If Baptists ever reach reach the point where we are forced to sing in lock step unison, we will cease to be.







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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Chris » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:30 pm

Where is the "LIKE" button. I'm waiting for Haruo to weigh in on this ..
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:12 pm

I spent more than half the weekend at the 26th annual Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singing Convention (Washington Session) and its attendant socials, and I'll tell you this, it wouldn't have been near as rich an experience if it involved all unison.

Here's what I was participating in at 10 am or so this morning: MILFORD video

The text (a Christmassy one by Sacred Harp standards) goes
If angels sung a Savior's birth,
If angels sung a Savior's birth,
On that auspicious morn,
We well may imitare their mirth,
We well may imitate their mirth,
Now He again is born,
Now He again is born.


Photos

183+ people sitting in a hollow square formation singing 186 songs over two days (not counting the songs we sang at the socials).
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:33 pm

Haruo, we gladly invite you to the East Texas Convention:
http://easttexasfasola.weebly.com/

Usually more people (300-350) but not as many songs (ca. 150, not counting Sat. night social). [Two things there. We tend to have more non-singing visitors, and we tend to sing slower.]

It's a little warm in Texas in August, but we have AC.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:48 pm

I appreciate the invitation, and hope to join you in a future year, but this year I'm morally certain it can't happen.

As for the number in attendance, hopefully by the time we've been around another hundred years we'll be as big as you guys!
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:58 pm

Meanwhile, if you (R. L. Vaughn, or any other reader) has some free time next February, I cordially invite you to attend the 27th annual Washington Session of the Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singing Convention, which will be held in Seattle (hopefully at the same Ballard Homestead venue as this year and last) on the Third Sunday and the Saturday preceding, i.e. February 17th and 18th, 2018. We'll probably still be using Denson, but pack your Cooper and Christian Harmony, and maybe Shenandoah if you've got one, for the socials. We may be able to put you up if you need a place to stay, or you can contact the Housing Committee when it gets closer to the date.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Chris » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:09 pm

Where can I find some Sacred Heart Singing conventions in the mid-Atlantic area?
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby James » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:18 pm

Mid-Atlantic singings.

Richmond (Tuesday night), Charlottsville, Raleigh, DC

google Sacred Harp singings.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:46 pm

Haruo -- possibly larger. Seems the non-traditional geographical areas are growing while the traditional areas are losing ground.

Chris, here is one Mid-Atlantic Convention coming soon:
http://www.his.com/~sabol/PRC/
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:29 pm

Rvaughn wrote:Haruo -- possibly larger. Seems the non-traditional geographical areas are growing while the traditional areas are losing ground.

Yes, it seems so. I don't think it will ever disappear from the original areas, but it may have to shrink until it's at least as out-of-the-ordinary and slightly-foreign-seeming there as it is up here. We had visitors from Georgia and Alabama, but more from Minnesota and Illinois and New York (not to mention Germany and Canada).
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Chris » Mon Feb 20, 2017 4:19 pm

Rvaughn wrote:Chris, here is one Mid-Atlantic Convention coming soon:
http://www.his.com/~sabol/PRC/


Thank you so much. That is a 3-hour drive from my house, but it's dooable. (on Saturday). It isn't clear if "guests" are expected to bring food, as well as singers.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:27 pm

Chris, wasn't sure where you were, so glad that might work for you. In general the convention tries to provide without guests having to bring something. It can vary by location, especially based on the ratio of visitors to hosts and so forth. I'm sure they'll be glad to have you and won't expect someone driving that far to bring food.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:29 pm

Haruo, I think in new areas it can often have a "foreign" appeal in an exotic sort of way. For some locals (especially upwardly-mobile-leave-my-roots-behind folks) it may seem just homely and odd.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:31 am

Chris wrote:
Rvaughn wrote:Chris, here is one Mid-Atlantic Convention coming soon:
http://www.his.com/~sabol/PRC/


Thank you so much. That is a 3-hour drive from my house, but it's dooable. (on Saturday). It isn't clear if "guests" are expected to bring food, as well as singers.

Generally, the more local you are, and the more established in the subculture you are, the more it's hoped you'll contribute to Dinner on the Grounds. If you're new and/or from out of town, don't worry about it (though you can take something (to share!)if you wish, and if you have serious allergies or special needs, best to bring a dish you can eat.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Mrs Haruo » Fri Mar 03, 2017 2:35 pm

Back to harmony v unison in church services-- I think one problem with projected hymn words on a screen with no music is it makes it very hard unless you have an instinctive ear for harmony to sing in parts. When kids (and adults) don't have the music to read there is little chance of learning how the notes relate to each other.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:21 pm

Agreed, and both the schools and the churches are culpable.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby James » Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:26 pm

One of my hymnals, Rejoice in the Lord has a harmonized arrangement of Slane by David Evans in 1927. Since I cannot read music, I have no clue as to what it sounds like. Erik Routley is the hymnal editor it should be fairly decent.

I know there are several members to this forum who think a lot about hymns and hymnal. What would it take for us to produce our own hymnal. I have made my own list of hymns consisting of music familiar to most of us. The weakness in my list is in the absence of any hymns written after 1990.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Chris » Mon Apr 10, 2017 7:45 pm

Mrs Haruo wrote: I think one problem with projected hymn words on a screen with no music is it makes it very hard unless you have an instinctive ear for harmony to sing in parts. When kids (and adults) don't have the music to read there is little chance of learning how the notes relate to each other.

Amen. Amen. Amen! I despise screens, for this reason and others. I refuse to use them.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby JE Pettibone » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:34 am

Chris wrote:
Mrs Haruo wrote: I think one problem with projected hymn words on a screen with no music is it makes it very hard unless you have an instinctive ear for harmony to sing in parts. When kids (and adults) don't have the music to read there is little chance of learning how the notes relate to each other.

Amen. Amen. Amen! I despise screens, for this reason and others. I refuse to use them.


Ed: Careful Chris, I too opposed the screens for years, then about' six years ago, I developed a terrible pain on the left side of my chest any time I stood to sing with a hymn book in my hand. The first time I thought I was having a hart attract. After a couple occurrences I reported it to my doctor who asked if the pain occurred under any other circumstance and when I said no he said "then, I suggest you don't sing". The projected words have helped with that problem. 'I still don't care for 7-11 choruses.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:07 am

Mrs Haruo wrote:Back to harmony v unison in church services-- I think one problem with projected hymn words on a screen with no music is it makes it very hard unless you have an instinctive ear for harmony to sing in parts. When kids (and adults) don't have the music to read there is little chance of learning how the notes relate to each other.


Only really true for those of us that read music though. While I do have a lot of musicians in the congregation, most lay people don't read music. So the music is of no help to them. But a lot of them with vision issues like the screens.

The way we handle it is that all music that is on the screen is either out of the hymnal or the UM hymn suppliment "The Faith We Sing." So anyone who does want the music can reach into the pew rack and get it. I find that most outside of the choir don't bother. But I like that both are available.

The other value of the screen is that is saves us huge amounts of paper. Responsive litanies, communion liturgy, scripture readings, etc. are all projected rather than printed in the bulletin. The church my daughter works for doesn't have screens and, as a fairly liturgical congregation, she ends up printing almost a small book every week to get all the scripture readings, litanies, etc. in the bulletin.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Sandy » Tue Apr 11, 2017 1:57 pm

I've been in churches that project the music on the screen as well. If the screen is big enough, for most people, especially older folks with vision issues, the illuminated screen might make it easier to see.

As far as singing in harmony vs. unison, it really seems like this is a personal preference issue related to music style. I grew up in a church with two gospel quartets, including one family quartet, and we had a lot of people who sang parts, and having a choir with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses was important. But I've also been in churches that weren't quite as focused on the style of music as they were on worship being a more holistic expression of encountering God. Most contemporary songs, including choruses, have harmony written into the musical arrangement for those that want to sing it. I think those of us who are older, and grew up in a generation that had a good bit of music instruction in school are better at finding the harmony and singing it than those who've never played an instrument or been in any kind of organized chorus. When schools cut budgets, music programs go first, but that's another topic.

Having been in worship for a while now that doesn't depend on a bulletin or an order has required some adjustment. There are no instruments, and singing is led by the person who is inspired at the moment to do it, and it doesn't happen every week. Since everything is more spontaneous, I focus more than I would during the singing of hymns I've sung a thousand times, or when just expecting that at a particular moment, the sermon will be delivered.
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Re: Harmony v Unison

Postby Haruo » Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:39 pm

When we were doing the Evergreen Hymn Sings we often projected musical notation along with lyrics, though sadly usually only the melody line for unison singing. If I had it to do over a lot more of it would have been for four parts. The Church of Christ publishing house has a full hymnal available for screen projection. Probably others, too, though a lot of what's available (e.g. through hymnary.org) is, again, for unison singing.
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