The Cantabile Renaissance Band has been doing a fair amount of shape note singing lately. Although the music dates from later than the period we concentrate on, it turns out to fit our abilities quite well, being polyphony written for amateurs to sing. While the tradition in this country is to sing it unaccompanied, we find having the instrumental support adds to our performances.
At our regular meetings, we normally do an “instrumental” versions of the vocal pieces, before we attempt to put both words and music together. The singers who don’t play instruments but do sing shape notes are enjoying having the shapes from lilypond 2.8 to sing.
What I put up today are three William Billings songs we enjoy:
- Africa, with the verses that Isaac Watts wrote that don’t get into the hymnals. We sang it in honor of Mothers’ Day.
- Lamentation over Boston. We sing this every year by the banks of the Charles River near Watertown for the Walk for Hunger.
- Easter Anthem. I sang this in the Robert Shaw edition with a church choir once; it works better with the renaissance band. This version is transcribed from the Norumbega Harmony book. which includes the extended section Billings wrote for a later printing of his book. It wasn’t in the Robert Shaw edition.