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All Verses and All Repeats

notes fa sol la Dear Miss Grace Notes: My favorite song has several verses and when I lead it, I hate to leave any of them out. Lately at conventions I have noticed that some people seem to be irritated when others sing all the verses to a song or take all repeats. I thought everyone was supposed to respect the leader's right to sing whatever and however he or she wants? ----Wants All of 146

image of Miss Grace Notes Gentle Singer: Miss Grace Notes sympathizes with your feelings. While going about her chores, she often adds multiple repeats to her favorite songs. She nevertheless recognizes that such indulgences on her own time might be inappropriate in group convention situations.
   If you are talking about three verses to a short song, a repeat on the last, why then we have no issue here. But Miss Grace Notes guesses that you have something more in mind. Sacred Harp singing, as your question suggests, is a democratic institution. The leader's space, however, should not be equated with the Senate floor in filibuster.
   Miss Grace Notes agrees that as the leader you have the right to set the way the song is to proceed. But she will not tell you that you can make everyone like it. Just as the class has a responsibility to follow the leader's choice and direction, the leader has a responsibility not to induce tedium.
   Convention etiquette is based on practical considerations and simple courtesy. If all verses are sung to every song, each with repeats, we will be singing until midnight, and by then everyone will be singing bass. Similarly, there is a place for a six-page anthem sung with both notes and words -- your shower stall, perhaps, on a Friday evening, or in the car on your way to an out-of-town session. If you launch into such at a large all-day singing, you should do so with the realization that you will have displaced two or three other leaders and exhausted the charity of your acquaintances.
   Miss Grace Notes has always believed that one of the characteristics of a good leader -- along with sureness, presence, time and such -- is a sense of what the class of singers wants, and to what it will cheerfully give its assent. Sometimes that may mean singing an extra verse or, in rare instances, taking another repeat. Seasoning -- in both the leader's space and the singer's chair -- will lead to a sense of when to take such liberty. In the meantime, you are encouraged to follow the pattern of experienced leaders you admire. See what boundaries they observe, and stay well within their good example.
   A final distinction, then: someone set for the gallows the following day will no doubt be indulged by the group in a request to have all five verses to his favorite song sung with repeats on each verse. Anyone else making such a stand at a crowded convention should not be surprised to see a noose materialize midway through the lesson.

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