Not something that happens
But the way something happens
-- Charles Ives,
Essays Before a Sonata

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jeremiah Ingalls Memorial Singing

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Jeremiah Ingalls Singing in Newbury, Vermont, for the first time in several years. This singing is the brainchild of Tom Malone, a Vermont native now on the faculty of the music education program at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Newbury is now a small place off the beaten track, but like many small places, it has its historical importance if you know where to look. It was one of the first settlements in Vermont, and the First Congregational Church in Newbury is the second oldest church in Vermont. (The oldest is Old First Church in Bennington.) This singing is now held in the parish hall of First Congregational, after starting out in a hall directly on the town green.

Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1838) was one of the many composers and compilers of tune books who plied their trade in the early years of the American republic. He is most remembered today for his publication The Christian Harmony (1805) which, though not published in the recently invented shape-note system, is now considered a key publication in the development of shape-note hymnody during the first half of the 19th century. Tom Malone has overseen a republication of Ingalls's collection in four-shape notation in order to make it more accessible to singers already schooled in music from shape-note collections such as The Sacred Harp. The Newbury singing is the only public event featuring music from Ingalls's collection.

(This book should not be confused with the better known 1866 Christian Harmony by William Walker, which is still the basis of several traditions of convention singing in the South.)

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