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Advent Calendar – December 3

Please come back tomorrow for another posting in my Advent calendar

What wondrous love is this?

A shapenote chorus.

Shape notes are a music notation designed to facilitate congregational and community singing. The notation, introduced in 1801, became a popular teaching device in American singing schools. Shapes were added to the note heads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.

The idea behind shape notes is that the parts of a vocal work can be learned more quickly and easily if the music is printed in shapes that match up with the “Solfège” syllables with which the notes of the musical scale are sung. For instance, in the four-shape tradition used in the “Sacred Harp” tradition, the notes of a C major scale are notated and sung as follows:

The syllables and notes of a shape note system are relative rather than absolute; they depend on the key of the piece. The first note of a major key always has the triangular Fa note, followed (ascending) by Sol, La, etc. The first note of a minor key is always La, followed by Mi, Fa, etc.
The first three notes of (any) major scale – fa, sol, la – are each a tone apart. The fourth to sixth notes are also a tone apart and are also fa, sol, la. The seventh and eighth notes, being separated by a semitone, are indicated mi-fa. This means that just four shapenotes can adequately reflect the “feel” of the whole scale.

– Wikipedia,

WondrousLove-Shapenote score
Tune: James Christopher, 1840
Words: Dupuy’s Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1811
Meter: Particular Meter: 6,6,6,3

What wondrous love is this!
Oh, my soul, oh my soul!
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
For my soul?

When I was sinking down,
Sinking down,
Sinking down,
Beneath God’s righteous frown
Christ laid aside His crown
For my soul.

To God and to the Lamb,
I will sing; I will sing;
Who is the great I Am,
While millions join the theme,
I will sing.

And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing on;
I’ll sing on;
I’ll sing and joyful be,
Throughout eternity
I’ll sing on.

As sung by The Old Harp Singers of Eastern Tennessee on the CD Classic Southern Gospel from Smithsonian Folkways

Click the above link to order MP3 tracks from Amazon UK.


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