Tenor from Windham
Composer, singing master, and merchant, Daniel Read (November 16, 1757 – December 4, 1836) is today considered one of America’s finest psalmodists, second in importance only to William Billings. If the number of contemporaneous reprints of Read’s music can measure his impact, he stands as the most popular American psalmodist of his day.
A composer of the First New England School and one of the primary figures in early American classical music, Read was the second American composer, after William Billings, to publish a collection of his own music. The American Singing Book (1785), went through five editions in the years immediately following—extraordinarily successful for its day. By number of printings, it made him the most popular of any composer in the nation. That tally doesn’t include the number of published compilations that used his works—many without his permission. "Sherburne", a 1785 tune originally from The American Singing Book, appeared in over seventy compilations before 1810.
Read was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, fought in the Revolutionary War and settled in New Haven, Connecticut. He made his living principally by operating a general store in New Haven, but supplemented it by publishing books of hos and other composers’ tunes. Among them are The Columbian Harmonist (three volumes: 1793, 1794, 1795, revised 1805, 1807, 1810) and The New Haven Collection of Sacred Music (1818). An Introduction to Psalmody (1790) was not a tunebook, but a pamphlet to instruct aspiring composers. Read also published the first music magazine in America. He and Amos Doolittle, one of whose tunebooks contained Read’s first published work, produced twelve issues of The American Musical Magazine during 1786 and 1787.
Several of Read’s tunes, among them "Greenwich", "Windham", and "Sherburne", are still sung in American churches. "Judgment," "Lisbon," Russia," "Stafford," "Windham," and "Winter" appear in The Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody, a scholarly anthology of the 101 most often reprinted sacred tunes in pre-1810 America. His work is also popular among "shape note" singers. Eleven of his tunes appear in The Sacred Harp, 1991 edition, which is notated in shape notes. "Windham," written in 1785, is one of his best-known works. Like many of his hymns, it was named for a New England town, in this case, the town of Windham, Connecticut.
Read’s published versions are in standard notation, some of which are available in Adobe Acrobat format on the World Wide Web. The transcription presented here is written in the four-shape note system used in The Sacred Harp (1844) and by the many shape note singers performing today. A reduction for keyboard is intended for rehearsal, but notated to facilitate accompaniment by string or other ensembles.
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