Daily Archives: December 21, 2011

“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” Is Not a Dirge

We sing Elizabeth Poston’s arrangement of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” in my choir. Her melody is a drastically slowed, minored, extremely boring version of Jeremiah Ingalls’ in-period hymn tune, BICENTENNIAL. It’s a very beautiful piece, mind you, but it always sounded kind of un-American to me, and not much at all like the Great Awakening religious period. That was an awfully energetic religious revival, after all!

So as an antidote and corrective for the historical imagination, here’s a group of Northern-tradition shape-note singers going at it, from the actual BICENTENNIAL harmony setting in The Christian Harmony, or The Songster’s Companion. The recording starts with them singing syllables, to get secure on the harmony; then they let rip with a few of the five verses.

Mind you, the Protestant tradition of shapenote singing was not Protestant church hymn singing. It was a devotional but fun and educational activity suitable for Sunday socializing, a sing done after church services for the most part. Hence the un-solemn tone of the tunes. :)

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