Imperfect Harmony by Stacy Horn

imperfect harmonyAccording to the author, despite all that life dishes out to us,, there’s always choral singing to make it all more bearable.  She should know – Horn has been a member of the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City since the early 1980s, and fully attests to the benefits of group singing, seeing in it an outlet for discovering inner joy during trying times.  She and her fellow choristers have had their share of trials – deaths, breakups, 9/11 – to contend with, and the weekly ritual of rehearsals provides a much-needed stability and sense of community for them.

Horn’s enthusiasm for choral singing shines through.  She is very keen on giving credit to her many peers, and to the directors that have managed to bring forth aural miracles year after year from a group of amateurs.  Horn is quick to state that while she is a non believer, she does experience a spiritual otherworldly feeling with communal singing, and thinks that the experience can be beneficial to anyone, regardless of belief.

Imperfect Harmony also traces the history of choral societies and their repertoire from the plainsong chants of medieval monks through the development of counterpoint up to present day compositions.  All of the heavies – Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, etc. are given due discussion, along with a number of lesser-known works.

The efforts of what these folks do to create performances are quite impressive.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing

I love short story and essay collections, because I can pick and choose the ones I like, read them out of order, and not feel compelled to read the whole book.

That’s what I liked – and very much – about The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing, although the quality within is so good, I found that most of the pieces within were worthy of reading; some were worth breezing through again.

The blues, country, rockabilly, jazz, alternative – there are few bases left uncovered in this collection of essays culled from the Oxford American, one of the best magazines in recent times devoted to short fiction, essays, art, music, and what have you, all or most with a Southern American slant.  Some essays cover the famous (Janis Joplin, Al Green, R.E.M.) others the near famous or obscure.  Most of the selections (I say most, because when I pick through collections like this one, I am never quite sure to have read every one) are fascinating.  Several essayists are recognized names, such as Peter Guralnick and John Jeremiah Sullivan; some are celebrities themselves.  An example is Steve Martin, who writes a whimsical piece about banjo playing near the end of the book.

There are a couple of short stories here, one of them courtesy of North Carolina’s own Ron Rash, and a poem by Billy Collins.

If good writing and American roots music are two of your passions, read this book!

(William Hicks, Information Services)