April Woman's Day Sings
The April 17 issue of Woman's Day includes my column "Sing as One" about the Haines A Cappella Women's Choir. One song I mention, Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope" set to an Irish melody by our director, Nancy Nash, has generated a lot of mail. Readers want to know more about it. I asked Nancy to reply to one of the inquiries, and here (with her permission) is her response:
Dear Ms. Weiner,
Heather Lende forwarded your question about the Irish music I based my SSA setting of "Hope" on. I, too, am a church musician, of the Episcopalian variety, and as such for many years felt sad that we could only use a beautiful hymn in our Hymnal 1982 one Sunday a year, because of its very specific references to John the Baptist at the Jordan River. Just a few months after I started the Haines A Cappella Women's Choir, I came home from church that Sunday in Advent and sat down with my big thick book of Emily Dickinson's poetry in one hand and the hymn in the other. The first poem I saw was "Hope," and it fit the tune perfectly! The hymn is number 69 in the Hymnal 1982, and I'll quote from the Hymnal Companion as to the source of the tune: "This tune's first American use was in the children's songbook 'Sing for Joy' (Greenwich, CT, 1961), compiled and edited by Norman and Margaret Mealy. It came from a Gaelic collection, 'Danta De' (Dublin, 1928)." Father Mealy gave it a new harmonization and altered it rhythmically to fit the text, "What is the crying at Jordan," with which it is paired in H82. "The tune had no name in 'Danta De'. Norman Mealy named it St. Mark's, Berkeley after the California parish where he worshiped and served as Choirmaster in the 1950s." If you would like, I would be happy to send you a PDF of my (two-page) setting of "Hope." Only two weeks after I set the poem, a "founding mother" of many things in our little town died, and we sang it at her memorial service.