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PublisherG Schirmer Inc
Additional ContributorNahum Tate, edited by Irving Lowens
for SATB chorus a cappella (Package of 10 octavos)
Daniel Read (1757-1836), New Haven merchant and gifted composer, was one of the originators of a characteristic of New England Style of composition which predominated in American music for nearly half a century. Through the publication of excellent tune books in many editions, most important of which were The American Singing Book (New Haven, 1785) and The Columbian Harmonist (New Haven, 1793), he exerted a marked influence on the protagonists of the idiom. During his lifetime, his tunes appear to have been even more popular than were those by his better-known contemporary, William Billings.
The fuguing tune “Sherburne” was without question one of the greatest favorites of the entire era, and certainly one of the classics of early American Music. It was no exaggeration to say that until the Civil War days, few Americans tune books were published in which it was not included. “Sherburne” is also one of the masterpieces of the fuguing-tune idiom. It is a typical example of Read’s best work, revealing him as a composer of striking originality and bold inventiveness in the small forms favored in young America.
The famous Christmas text by Nahum Tate (1652-1715), England’s third poet-laureate and librettist of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, is still given a place of honor in most contemporary hymnals. It is perhaps the last surviving remnant of the 250-year-old “New Version” of Psalms of David co-authored by Tate and Nicholas Brady. Read’s setting of the poem supplanted in popular favor an earlier one by William Billings, and although many later settings appeared, “Sherburne” was never seriously challenged by any of the others. Of Tate’s six stanzas, only the first and last are here included.
— Irving Lowens