Arranged by Stephen Hatfield
Voicing: SSAATB
Instrumentation: a cappella
Catalog number: AMP 0715
Price: $2.10

arranged by Stephen Hatfield

Background Notes
In many SATB groups the SA voices outnumber the TB voices, sometimes drastically especially when several SATB groups combine in a massed choir. “Sarah,” like its companion piece “Heave Away,” also published by Alliance Music Publications, was written for situations where the upper voices are in abundance. The SA voices extend themselves through simple but rich divisi, while the men have a part with lots of spotlight that still works when the TB voices are in the minority.

“Sarah” is much beloved in Newfoundland and a staple at song-swapping sessions: in fact, I first heard the song at four in the morning at just such a session in a room standing high above the St. John's harbour. There's a special feeling for songs you meet after midnight.

Performance Notes

The four treble parts (S1, S2, A1, A2) are of equal importance. Please make sure that we do not wind ndst up, for example, with a 2 soprano section that is dwarfed in number by the 1 sopranos. Second soprano often has the melody or a crucial countermelody and must not be buried.

Although the piece has been notated with dotted eighths and sixteenths, the feel is that of triplet eighths with the first two eighths tied together. It is most important that the dotted rhythms not become too crisp and martial. This is not crisp music. Please note that in such places as measure 31 the way to time the triplet sixteenths is to feel the underlying pulse of triplet eighths, and then put the triplet sixteenths on the final triplet eighth. In measures that combine notation in triplets and dotted rhythms, such as measure 9, it is understood that the triplet feel carries on throughout.

Rhythmic energy is everything in this song and must be kept stoked, especially when the dynamic level is low.

A frequent rhythm is the “Scotch snap” where a sixteenth precedes a dotted eighth, such as in m.11. These figures should always be given extra snap by keeping the sixteenth accented and brief, rather as if it were an emphatic grace note.

The changes of time signature in “Sarah” are not meant to create rhythmic upheaval, but rather to imitate the sort of rhetorical pause that comes naturally to a storyteller. (Later in the song when the action is brisk the pauses disappear: compare measures 74 and 98 with the earlier verses.) At first it 3 4 may feel strange to have that first measure in “Sarah” happen in when the song is in duple time, but aim for the sense of a narrator's trick of drawing out an important sentence (see how the phrase leads up to “charming girl” and pauses on the word “girl”).

Scooping up to a note, usually from a major second below, is very much a part of the carousing style of this music. The trick is to make the scoops sound like they are alive, like they're there to energize the note and emphasize the moment, as opposed to scoops that are timidly, obediently reproduced by the choir as they follow the music. In “Sarah” you'll note the first syllable of the heroine's name is always scooped into for the sake of energy and delight.

A colloquial diction is appropriate here, with the final consonants dropped from words like “and” or “charming.”

Stephen Hatfield

recording performed by Festival of Catholic High School Choirs
Seattle, WA
Stephen Hatfield, Conductor

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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