Thursday, December 17, 2020

The One Horse Open Sleigh, 1872-style

This is a 2011 post which I thought I'd re-up. Years back, when I was getting download counts at, I checked in one day and was stunned to see that more than 1400 downloads had happened! I'm still stunned. (Only 1,327 of those were by me.  Just kidding.)  Anyway, the text explains all. Just pretend it's 2011 again, and my use of the present tense won't be a problem.

So, I received my eBay copy of the William B. Bradbury tunebook, The Victory (1872 edition), and there on page 74 is James Pierpont's The One Horse Open Sleigh, a.k.a. Jingle Bells--only, with its original melody (!), which is different in spots from the one we know. So I put together a recording, with me at the Casio WK-3800 (Patch 071). This is tricky to play, because the tenor part is up top on its own line (and notated an octave up in the treble clef), which makes putting all four voices together a royal pain, since the tenor has to be added to the bass, alto, and soprano, and played an octave lower than written. Therefore, I recorded this four bars at a time and joined the results together. Which is actually less of a hassle than re-notating the thing for easier reading. Except for a couple rushed measures, this came out nicely, I think. 

DOWNLOAD: The One Horse Open Sleigh (James Pierpont)--Your blogger at the WK-3800; 2011.

        "I need one of those dish TVs.  Hey, how come I only have two reindeer??"--Santa



Larry said...

This won't download for me. Tried it in both firefox and chrome. It says in both places the download is in progress but nothing happens. I really would like to hear it. I love this kind of stuff.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

That's weird. Let me see switch hosting sites. Maybe that'll work.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Larry--It's up and running now. Sorry about that!

Geordie said...

This is great! Thanks.

Ernie said...

Thanks, Lee! I remember this from back then, you used to post a lot of your own recordings.

Larry said...

Thank you.

This is reminiscent of what I experience in back in the 80s. Some popular songs were played in most nondenominational churches, but each had their own version of them, varying in lyrics, melody and chord structure. In some cases a pastor had a theological issue with a phase so it was changed to bring it into line, or the musicians didn't understand the music and so it was conformed to their limited skills. Simplified chords would force the melody to go different directions in places. Of course, I just assumed that the version my church used was the proper one, and the other churches I'd visit were playing it wrong. The variety wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though. It made the songs more of a living, evolving entity.

A parallel might be the very old hymnbooks that only contained lyrics and the organist could use any melody in the proper meter.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thanks for the nice words!

Larry--I've always attended (as the organist, typically) denominational churches--United Presbyterian, UMC, American Baptist--and I never noticed any alterations of the hymns, save for alternate tunes. (I believe you, of course!) For instance, I had to do a major search for the right melody for the hymn "God Is Working His Purpose Out"--it turned up in an Episcopal hymnal. The standard tune is vastly inferior to the one I was searching for. And, when I playing at my small country Presbyterian church, we had the previously issued hymnal, and the standard tune for "Amazing Grace" was actually listed as the second (alternate) tune! It actually took a long time for the now-standard "Amazing Grace" tune to become the standard one. And put yourself at the head of the class for knowing that hymnals (which were originally text-only) were used with tunebooks, so that any melody (so long as it fit the syllable count per line) could be swapped. I guess that song master used to announce the tune name, which the singers would all know, then sound a pitch pipe to announce the key. The funny thing is that many (most?) modern ministers have no idea what the metrical tune index is for! What's cool is that the type of meter isn't an issue, so long as the syllable count matches--a text can work in both duple and triple meter, if the melody conforms. "Amazing Grace" can be sung to so many tunes, someone ought to put out an index. Oh, and very few people understand why tunes have their own names, since they don't realize that tunes weren't fixed to a given text. You may know this, but prior to Arthur Sullivan's magnificent tune for "Onward, Christian Soldiers," the tune commonly used, though taken from Haydn, was pretty drab. The word "soldiers" makes this great hymn politically incorrect nowadays, which is unfortunate, since it's a great work of art--music and words, both. The song is a collection of metaphors--Christian warfare doesn't involve tanks and missiles and bombed-out houses, but maybe too many people don't understand what a metaphor is.

Can you tell me more about your nondenominational churches? I briefly attended a "big box" church which followed none of the rules of a traditional service, and their little song booklet (words only) were things I'd never heard of. Then again, I'm not well versed in modern "praise" music. Most of it doesn't appeal to me... Thanks for your thoughts.