Long-lost Shenandoah tunebook found

It’s rare to discover lost shape-note songs, let alone entire books, so I was completely floored to find that a copy of the long-lost James P. Carrell’s Songs of Zion (1821) was recently cataloged by the University of Virginia. Songs of Zion is a 64-page collection of shape-note tunes published by Ananias Davisson one year after his A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony.  Unlike A Supplement and most other contemporary shape-note tunebooks, which contain folk hymn arrangements and compositions by several people, Songs of Zion claims to consist almost entirely of Carrell’s own arrangements or compositions.  It gives us a rare opportunity to study one Shenandoah Valley composer in depth.  As I understand it, the last known copy of Songs of Zion belonged to W. E. Chute, who died in 1900, so many of these songs have gone unsung for more than a century.  See UPDATE below.

Thanks to some legwork by our friend John Alexander, we’ve now been able to view the entire book (except for the final two pages, which are missing) and several of us on the music committee have sung through a good portion of the songs–enough to appreciate that there are some appealing and unusual pieces.  The book is now freely available online HERE through UVA’s web site.  We also are planning to publish a small critical edition of Songs of Zion, together with essays about Carrell’s musical style, intended both for singers and scholars.

Here are a few highlights.  I’m assuming in this writeup that all of the songs in the book except the one he attributes to someone else are composed or arranged by Carrell.  Unless we can find them in prior manuscripts it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to establish authorship definitively, however.

Here’s a transcription of the title page:









Is any merry? let him sing Psalms– James V, XIII.


Printed by A. Davisson Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Virginia.  Where on Application Music Printing

of every Description will be executed with neatness and despatch.


William Hauser, the compiler of the Hesperian Harp (1848), had access to Songs of Zion, or perhaps W. E. Chute sent him songs from the book (the two corresponded).  The following arrangements in the Hesperian Harp are taken almost note-for-note from Songs of Zion.  Click on the song title to see the page in the Hesperian Harp, courtesy of Berkley Moore’s site.  Thanks also to Nikos Pappas, who found a few I had overlooked.

  • Angels Songs – arrangement of a Scottish melody called “The Lea Rig.”
  • Attention (called Lovest Thou Me by Hauser)
  • Broomsgrove (called Jesus Crucified by Hauser; the original text is “Lamb of God for sinners slain.”)
  • Calvary New
  • Elevation
  • Elysian (and page 2) This is basically the arrangement in The Sacred Harp, but with the original alto.  The melody is a traditional Irish one associated with Moore’s poem “The Minstrel Boy.”
  • Geneva
  • Melody – though the alto is not original to Carrell
  • Messiah – as in The Sacred Harp
  • Missionary – Hauser’s Eden has the same treble and tenor, but the bass is different and the alto is added.  In addition, Carrell’s text is “How firm a foundation.”
  • Mourner
  • Passover
  • Patmos (called Isle of Patmos by Hauser)
  • Pilgrim (called Anticipation by Hauser; a relative of Child of Grace)
  • Portsmouth
  • Solemn Thought – the match here is not exact – Hauser edited the bass part somewhat to avoid the lowest notes.  Carrell’s bass part is most like the Southern Harmony version. Davisson rewrote Carrell’s bass part in A Supplement, 2nd ed., and changed the treble slightly. The arrangement in The Shenandoah Harmony, page 34, is Davisson’s.

Someone associated with William Walker, probably F. Price, may have had a copy of Songs of Zion.  Here are arrangements published by Walker that are close matches to Carrell’s book:

  • Shepherd in the Southern and Western Pocket Harmonist
  • Elevation, ditto (Carrell’s alto is missing and the song is in 6/4 rather than 6/8)
  • Christian Soldier in Southern Harmony, though attributed to F. Price by Walker.  There are a couple of bass note differences but otherwise it’s the same arrangement.  This song is also in three parts in Songs of Zion.  The alto in The Christian Harmony and The Sacred Harp was added by Walker in 1866.
  • Delight in Southern Harmony is Carrell’s Broomsgrove without the alto and with the text “Vain, delusive world adieu.”
  • Solemn Thought in Southern Harmony, also attributed to Price.  See the note above.

W. E. Chute, the most thorough nineteenth-century scholar of this music, traces the first printing of several folk hymns to Songs of Zion in his handwritten comments on several books.  The songs that Chute attributes to “Carrell, 1821” in his marginal comments on the Knoxville Harmony and the Olive Leaf are

Knoxville Harmony

  • CHILD OF GRACE / PILGRIM  – though he also ascribes this to “Robertson, 1813” – he must be referring to FIDUCIA with the Robertson reference.  See my comments on PILGRIM above.
  • MESSIAH – clearly
  • SOLEMN THOUGHT – he writes “Carrell & Davisson, from Ingalls.”  The Ingalls version is called HONOR TO THE HILLS.
  • MELODY – this is the one in the Hesperian Harp that I referenced
  • COLUMBIA – I would give the earliest printing of this minor Blackbird variant to Alexander Johnson, 1818, but perhaps Chute didn’t have the Tennessee Harmony.  But there is a similar melody in Songs of Zion so this attribution makes sense

Olive Leaf

  • NEW BRISTOL – this is the same melody as CHILD OF GRACE / PILGRIM
  • ALDRED – this is ELEVATION in Songs of Zion
  • CUMBERLAND – this is BELLEVUE or HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION.  The closest melody in Songs of Zion is called NEW MARKET, to the text “My God, I am thine, what a comfort divine.” However, the match is not particularly close – really a stretch, in fact.
  • RESTORATION – also somewhat of a stretch.  There’s a melody called JEWIN STREET in SZ that is related.  It’s almost identical to the melody of BROWNSVILLE in Hesperian Harp http://www.shapenote.net/berkley/217.jpg  Carrell uses the “come thou fount” text.

As we get more chances to sing from Songs of Zion we’ll have a better sense of Carrell as a composer.  Like James C. Lowry, who was also an associate of Davisson, he experimented with arrangements of folk tunes and longer class songs, including a Christmas Anthem.

UPDATES from fasola-discussions

Richard Hulan pointed me to Irving Lowens’ intro to the 1976 reprint of Kentucky Harmony by Da Capo Press (p. 10), in which he says “Although James P. Carrell’s Songs of Zion was printed by Davisson in Harrisonburg in 1821 and, as would be reasonable to expect, was strongly influenced by the Kentucky Harmony, it is, in fact surprisingly individualistic.”  So Lowens must have seen a copy, perhaps the one at UVA now, since Lowens lived in Virginia.

Berkley Moore brought up the fact that Harmony Grove (also called New Britain, the melody now associated with Amazing Grace) in Clayton & Carrell’s Virginia Harmony.  It’s not in Songs of Zion.  The earliest printing of this melody known is in Shaw and Spilman’s Columbian Harmony, 1829.

Dick also mentioned that other tunebooks cite Carrell as a source for a few other melodies.

In addition to MILBURN PORT, an English tune (HTI #5314b) attributed to “Mr. Dyer’s Collection,” there is one unattributed song that is clearly an arrangement of a song that Carrell did not write: TRIUMPH is PEBMARSH (HTI #13068) by Burkill and also published by Dyer. The bass is the same, but the treble and alto are completely different; the fuge is removed in favor of an antiphonal section.