A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Stopping time

I just noticed that Richard Stoddard posted a recording of my leading Few Happy Matches at Camp Fasola in 2009 (the recording was done by Al McCready). This is a tune I had been leading a lot at Sacred Harp singings and conventions in 2009; I still like it. One silly reason is that the tune’s title indicates a goal of a good search engine. The title actually comes from an Isaac Watts poem about the difficulty of good marriage matches, according to Warren Steele.

In the 1991 Denson edition of the Sacred Harp, there is a fermata in the antepenultimate measure; I spent a long time thinking about how long to hold this. It is sometimes held just the shortest extra time. But Wade Kotter had brought an early copy of the Sacred Harp to the singing, and I noticed that there was no fermata, but two tied-half notes. You can see this for yourself at the online version of BF White’s 1860 edition of the Sacred Harp at Michigan State; a similar thing is true of the version in the Southern Harmony (where the tune is called “Willoughby,” from whence BF White might easily have taken it.

This gave me justification for holding it for a longish time. In fact, Tom Malone (dear friend and singing master) has suggested that a fermata stops time, a very interesting philosophical puzzle. Listening to Few Happy Matches now is very suggestive. It does feel like time is being stopped as we sing who sometimes are afraid to die.

It may be that you’ll experience time being stopped as you listen or sing this tune.

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