Choral Eden of Love SATB with tanpura drone | 3 min | Listen The mother lode of early American hymnody may be found in the Sacred Harp tradition, where I first encountered this transcendent song. The last few decades have brought a revival of interest in and performance of its “shaped note music,” born of 19th-century “Singing Schools” where communities would learn to read music via a strict pedagogy, using shaped noteheads. Performance practice requires the singers to assemble their chairs in rows in four vocal sections, all facing the center, where a conductor may (or may not) lead. The tenor line generally has the melody, and all the parts are rendered with vigor, beginning with a run-through solely in solfege! Although some urban choral groups earnestly attempt imitation of this style, I often find their raucous simulation in an out-of-context performance setting a bit of a caricature (as can happen with any unfamiliar style). This arrangement of The Eden of Love (anon.) was developed for four professional soloists in a house concert setting, and their style walks somewhere between bel canto and folk singing. The piece works well for any combination or quantity of voices, as tutti parts may sing the solo lines, or alternate with soloists. The use of the drone (North Indian tanpura, in this case) provides a scrim, suggesting the parallel ethereal world of heaven. I know of no other hymn text that attempts to paint heaven with such vivid sublimity. What a joy to sing, “I’ll bathe in the ocean of pleasure unbounded” in a sacred song! How sweet to reflect on those joys that await me In yon blissful region, the haven of rest, Where glorified spirits with welcome shall greet me And lead me to mansions prepared for the blest; Encircled in light, and with glory enshrouded, My happiness perfect, my mind’s sky unclouded, I’ll bathe in the ocean of pleasure unbounded And range with delight thru’ the Eden of Love. While angelic legions with harps tuned celestial Harmoniously join in the concert of praise, The saints, as they flock from the regions terrestrial, In loud hallelujahs their voices will raise; Then songs of the Lamb shall re-echo through heaven, My soul will respond to Emmanuel be given. All glory, all honor, all might and dominion, Who brought us thru’ grace to the Eden of Love.