I am now the proud owner of a 2006 Cooper Edition of BH White’s Sacred Harp. Last month I went to the annual Sadsbury Two-Book Singing at the Sadsbury Friends Meetinghouse in Christiana, Pennsylvania. No, I had no idea where that was till I went there. It was a perfect Fall day, crunchy and sparkling — of course I spent most of it indoors, but enjoyed the view across the burying ground to the hills, and the drive out and back from the farm was pretty.
Calling from the blue book was clearly the choice of most of the cool kids (Ina, instead, found us obscure tunes in the red book) and — cool points aside — I certainly wanted to try it out myself, as this was my first Cooper Book singing. I announced this upon rising to lead 180, “Nettie,” which Ted found for me (“This sounds like the kind of song you would like,” he said, and was absolutely correct; it’s a new song, but sounds a lot like the minor folkish tunes I often lead), and got a round of smiles. I was soon one-upped by leaders who had never led at a convention or had never led at all. There weren’t many singers, and only about twenty leaders, so most of us led in each of the four sessions: Nettie first, then 77t, Child of Grace (Denson), then Cooper 51t (another of T’s suggestions), and then Denson 564, “Zion,” which received the John Merritt growl of approval. In fact he persuaded me (by waving energetically) to take the repeat a third time. That is a good song, it’s true, and the group seemed roused and ready, and there is only the one verse. I think it was Ina who first alerted me to this tune. We didn’t do many songs common to the two books out of Cooper, so I didn’t get a sense of what the differences (mostly in the altos) sound like. There were some rousers, some slow and (to my taste, sickly-) sweet ones, a few doses of gospel flavor and early-20C fanciness: high-voice duets, alternations, echoes, & interjections, multiple birds’-eyes. More Jesus-my-friend and less Death-is-near in the texts, proportionately.
Dinner on the Grounds: Someone said, “Three people brought exactly the same thing.” “Yeah, kielbasa & sauerkraut.” “Guess we must be in Pennsylvania, then.” It’s a crockpot world out there.