- Southern Harmony, for double chorus
William Duckworth: Southern Harmony
This beautiful series of choral pieces utilizes 19th-century Protestant hymns that were included in the 1854 edition of Southern Harmony, and were originally notated in "shape notes" (square, round, triangular, and diamond-shaped note heads) that enabled non-music reading congregations to sing them. This practice (also associated with Sacred Harp meetings) still goes on in the southern U.S. "Until I was five or six years old," says the composer, who was born in North Carolina, "my family went to a rural Methodist church where they did shape-note singing." Duckworth reworked these hymns (which have titles like "Solemn Thought," "Cheerful," "Holy Manna," and "The Mouldering Vine") in a postmodern manner to bring out musical characteristics inherent but not developed until now, a sort of translation from a church tradition into a form-and-texture-conscious concert medium. The Gregg Smith Singers, assisted by the Rooke Chapel Choir of Bucknell University, sing the pieces, twenty of them organized into four books, with rousing spirit and great charm.
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