This past weekend I went to the LA Regional All-Day Sacred Harp Singing, back at the former military post overlooking the ocean where I was for the All-California Convention in January. Since this was a regional all-day, it was smaller than the convention. The singing was great, though, and it was fun to see familiar faces and get to know some other Southern California singers better. The weather was more or less the same as it was in January (seriously, what is this climate?).
This is Catalina Island as seen from the top of the hill where the singing was held. It was almost invisible in the morning, and later in the day it was still mostly shrouded in luminous mist.
At the bottom of the hill is the Korean Friendship Bell, a gift from South Korea to the United States on the occasion of the latter’s bicentennial. I first saw it in January, during the convention, and I went back for another look this time.
The bronze bell is massive and features a Statue of Liberty-esque figure next to a Korean figure on all four sides. If you look closely, you can also see many hibiscus blossoms, or, as the explanatory plaque calls them, roses of Sharon. Funnily enough, Rose of Sharon is also the name of a six-page anthem in The Sacred Harp, and we did in fact sing it on Saturday.
Finally, a friend once told me that the world is tiny and the shape note world tinier still. Here is a story from this singing to illustrate that: It was still early in the morning, and I was singing away in the alto section looking across the hollow square at the tenor section when I noticed a familiar-looking man there. I knew I’d seen him recently, but I couldn’t recall where. I didn’t think I’d seen him at a local singing. I wondered if he’d been at the contra dance I’d gone to the weekend before, since it’s not unusual for shape note singers to be folk dancers and vice versa. Then I glimpsed his name tag, and I recognized his name as one I’d just seen somewhere (it was memorable in part because it’s very similar to the name of a well-known linguist). I was racking my brains trying to figure out where I knew this man from when it finally hit me: he was the musette player from the hurdy-gurdy concert I’d gone to the previous weekend, the one I wrote about last week!
Anyway, at the next break, I accosted him and told him I recognized him as the musette player from the concert, and we had a pleasant conversation about early music.
Ooh, that friendship bell looks exactly like a typical one you’d find in Korea, down to the external wooden clapper and the pavilion it’s housed in. I’ll have to check that out when I visit!
Ah, the rose of Sharon; the name is found in the Song of Solomon where it is believed to refer to a crocus. Linnaeus somehow got the mistaken notion that this plant came from Syria, hence Hibiscus syriacus. Apparently in England it is commonly referred to as the rose mallow which at least tells us the plant family it belongs to. This hardy shrub (although not hardy in MN) is widely grown; I remember them in the gardens along the Seine in Paris and by the Assembly building at CSA. Despite the botanical imprecision, I’ve always loved the phrase from the S of S: “the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley.”
Indeed, that is the text upon which the Sacred Harp anthem (by William Billings) is based! Song of Solomon 2:1-11, except skipping verses 6 and 9. King James Version, of course.