Directions for Singing - (2009)
for baritone and piano
for baritone Bruce Perry
Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as
Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them
at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon
as you can.
Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can.
Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a
cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half
dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more
afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you
sung the songs of Satan.
Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the
rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive
to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run
before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move
therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This
drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to
drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at
Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim
at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do
this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart
is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall
your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he
cometh in the clouds of heaven.
[ 9 pages, circa 4' 50" ]
John Wesley was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian, largely
credited with founding the evangelically-oriented Methodist movement which
became highly successful in the United Kingdom. Among his methods was the
appointment of itinerant, un-ordained preachers who travelled widely to
evangelize and care for people in the organized "methodist" societies. Their
assistants were called "exhorters", and this movement took up interest in
prison reform and the abolition of slavery. During Wesley's life, he
asserted that his work was well within the boundaries of the Anglican
church, per se, though his unusual methods put him into conflict with church
hierarchy as well. He and his brother, Charles, contributed many hymn texts
to the church culture. It was late in his life that he ordained Thomas Coke
for ministry in the United States, and through this came an independent
course for Methodism.
In discussing this text of seven exhortation as suggested by Bruce Perry
(for whom I also composed a setting of Percy Bysshe Shelley's
Music, when Soft Voices die), I learned that certain melodies are
most closely associated with the hymn texts which Wesley authored. For this
I chose to use some of these hymns as a starting point for the musical
materials, as well as a humorous and extremely oblique reference to Tu es
petrus, which also figured into our transatlantic conversation. The
hymns which I chose were known as Azmon
[ 1 ], Hyfrydol
[ 2 ] and Beata terra
[ 3 ], and as the first two were in triple time notation, I resolved to
change the rhythms to fit into a square duple rhythm, with a quasi
stride piano texture.
The "lustily" delivered opening gesture yields to a dominant in the
diatonic, quartal harmonies of this setting. Thereupon the opening
exhortation is accompanied by a modified quote of the Methodist hymn, Azmon,
which is forced from its normal 3/2 meter and into this square, music hall
styled duple meter.
After two repetitions of the Azmon theme, in the subdominant appears
the hymn tune Hyfrydol, which is twisted from its original 3/4 meter
to become compatible with this duple setting. This tune is not used in its
entirety. The additional of some non-harmonic tones emphasize the modern use
of this classic melody.
This syncopated duple texture gives way to a longer lined moment of parallel
seven chords and a jazz "lick" which refreshes the mood.
Yet another hymn tune, Terra beata, appears, as the setting becomes a
kind of rondo or chain form in which new material continues to crop up. This
hymn tune is originally in 4/4 time, such that some small syncopations were
all that was needed to employ it as further accompaniment to the Wesley
Tempos moderate, and at the more devout advice a meno mosso allows a
more serious tone and texture. The slightest opening gesture from another
hymn, Sweet Hour of Prayer (which I cited also in the last movement
Echoe from the Shore to texts of Walt Whitman), makes prayerful this
moment, before the onrushing reprise of the opening and a return to the
The score for Directions for Singing is available as a free PDF
download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work
is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Directions for Singing
[ 1 ]
The hymn tune known as Azmon was
composed by Carl
G. Glaser and arranged by Lowell Mason in 1839, to a text of John
Charles Wesley, (1707-1788). The
tune was made popular in several denominations, but especially well
known in Methodist churches for the association with the Wesleys.
[ 2 ] Hyfrydol was
Prichard, (1811-1887), the best known harmonization found in
The English Hymnal, 1906, and is also for a text by Charles
Wesley from 1747. This hymn tune is also well known in several
denominations, especially in the Methodist church, and a beloved
chorale prelude based on it was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
[ 3 ]
Terra beata is the familiar name for a traditional English
melody sometimes known as
Rusper. A previous melody to the text of John Wesley fell
from favor and was replaced by this melody in an early 20th century
arrangement by Franklin Sheppard (1915).