Thursday, March 18, 2004

"Abraham", by Bruce Feiler - Harper Collins Publishers

I had the privilege of singing at the 30th annual Livonia (MI) Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast with my college chorale this morning. We sang twice, four songs all together:

Kyrie - Hassler
Alleluia - Thomson
Abide With Me - arr. Hogan
Ain't That Good News - trad (Tuskegee arrangement)

Plans for a fifth tune, Moses Hogan's arrangement of "I Can Tell the World", were scrapped - probably for time considerations, but there's been some question about the way we're performing it - we ignore the score's "swing all 16th notes" directive up front, ostensibly because Mr. Hogan has anecdotally instructed that it be sung straight - but a fellow chorale member has sung this song WITH Hogan - and they swung it. In fact, he quoted Hogan as specifically chewing out a member who wasn't swinging the beat properly - "What are you, a robot?" LOL.

Whatever - I have this, perhaps unfair, perception of conservatory types as just not getting it. Our director commented that Hogan was very precise, and "would have written in triple time if he wanted triplets." NO NO NO NO!!!! Swing is not triplets, at least not in its best form. A "shuffle", a specialized form of swing used in blues, particularly blues rock, DOES use triplets. But most forms of swing stop short of a full triplet, where the first (16th, in this case) note gets 66 2/3 % of the beat it subdivides, and the second note gets the remaining 33 1/3 %. Most true swing ranges from ~ 60/40 to ~ 65/35 --- later versions (Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal) being less pronounced than earlier versions (Duke Ellington, and Count Basie in particular).

So you don't write it in triple time because it's NOT in triple time, unless the conductor (or rhythm section in a combo setting) chooses to do a shuffle. But nobody in choral music circles seems to understand this. Can you feel my frustration? Anyhow, kind of glad we skipped it.

I linked our guest speaker above. He's been actively working for a meeting of the minds among the various "Children of Abraham" - Christians, Moslems, and Jews, and offered some great insights into how we got ourselves into the mess we did. His "Abraham Initiative", a ground level program designed to institute interfaith dialog, is an inspiration. I bought a few copies of his book, I'm hoping my Pakistani Moslem friend and I will get a chance to both read it before we part ways at the end of the month, as our work project draws to a close and our respective companies send us both elsewhere.

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