In the late 1980’s I discovered early American shapenote, or “Sacred Harp” music and began singing, collecting, and publishing some of the tunes in small hand-made songbooks.

The first book was just a collection of tunes from The Hesperian Harp, William Houser’s shapenote songbook which was published in 1848. I had located a copy of this rare book in a used bookstore in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Never before had I encountered such a wonderful blending of high-quality Christian poetry with beautiful folk melodies.

These were the days before home computers, so the copying of music was either done by photocopy, cut and paste, or with a quill ink pen fitted up with a music nib. It was quite time consuming!

Eventually, I began collecting other folk melodies and trying to match them to poetry by Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and others. And so new songs were created this way, which became part of the growing collection.

Around the mid 1990’s I obtained my first computer, an Atari MegaSTe, and purchased a good scoring program. This led to the production of my final songbook collection of early American songs and other hymns inspired by that tradition. The year was 1999 (the final printing of the book was 2001, but it remained essentially unchanged). We called it Song in the Night, after the following Bible verse:

Isaiah 30
29 You shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goes with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel.

This is a collection of various early American songs from many different songbooks. There are also some new songs included, which were made by matching folk tunes to christian poetry (I didn’t write these songs, I simply put them together). In most cases, only melody and chords are included, and only regular music notation is used (not shape-note notation). So it is more a songbook for a single or small group of singers who enjoy Irish/Scottish/English music, and would like to sing sacred music in that style. The book is wonderfully illustrated and bordered.

Song in the Night

(click on image to download pdf...)

Sample Pages – Here are a few images of some of the pages, to give you an idea of what the book looks like (click on the images to view them full-size):



We have a few recordings of performances of the songs from Song in the Night, but they are strictly non-professional.

Sabbath Meeting

The first group of recordings were made in a small basement, with a few families and friends, during a Sabbath meeting in the mid 1990’s. We handed out tambourines, bells, and cymbals to the children, and taught them to use them at the highlights (line endings, or special words). Later on, I added some real and synthesized instruments to the recordings. Here are the results.

North American Recordings

This group of recordings was made in 1999, in one evening when we had some visitors from our church in New York state. It is an informal singing, with mostly melody and some acoustic accompaniment (no fancy arrangements or long practice sessions). It is just designed to acquaint people with the melodies, so they can learn the songs easily, and sing along.

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2 Comments on Song in the Night

  1. Debra says:

    Hello — How can I purchase a copy of “A Song In the Night”?

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the request. It reminded me that I should put up a “store” section on the website soon. In the meantime, I have a few new copies printed some years ago, and will be glad to send one of these to you for $20 (price includes postage). You can pay me via PayPal: sales@practicatechnical.com.

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