Page: 146

'118 | amazing grace of tenors, sopranos, and basses rising and swelling in a ragged form of harmony is a foot beating out time on a floorboard. The notes have barely died away before someone announces the next song. After recording shape-note singing in northern Alabama in 1959, folk archivist Alan Lomax commented, “Here, I thought, is a choral style ready-made for a nation of individualists.” Shape-note singers used tune books rather than hymnals. Hym- nals were pocket-size books with texts only. Tune books were large oblong-shaped books with hard covers (nine inches by six inches was a typical size), often running to over four hundred pages. They in- cluded both music and text and were introduced by an extended essay on the rudiments of singing. Each song was known by the name given to its tune rather than by a title drawn from the text. It was in one such tune book that the music we now use with “Amazing Grace” was first published. For many years it was believed that the source of the tune was Virginia Harmony, an 1831 shape-note collection published in Winchester, Virginia, and put together by Methodist lay preacher James P. Carrell and Presbyterian elder David L. Clayton. As recently as 1986 The New Grove Dictionary of American Music claimed: “Virginia Harmony . . . has the distinction of including the earliest known printing of the anonymous pentatonic folk melody ‘Harmony Grove,’ now associated with ‘Amazing Grace.’ ” In Virginia Harmony the melody wasn’t used with “Amazing Grace” but with an Isaac Watts hymn, “There Is a Land of Pure Delight,” which was written to the same meter. Carrell and Clayton named the tune “Harmony Grove.” There is a land of pure delight, Where saints immortal reign; Infinite day excludes the night, And pleasures banish pain. Virginia Harmony remained the accepted source until 1990, when the American hymnologist Marion Hatchett, who had a special inter- est in shape-note music, discovered a previously unheard-of tune ' US