Thursday, June 18, 2015

George Keith and The Fountain, Cooper Sacred Harp, 303

Keith, George. The 1902 Cooper Revision of The Sacred Harp attributed page 303 as “George Keith.  Arr. by T. J. Allen, Oct. 12, 1902.” An additional footnote tells us that someone learned the air as a small boy and had “never sung it in any book.” It is unclear whether Cooper meant to attribute the words to Keith and the arrangement to Allen, or the air to Keith and the arrangement to Allen. Also, there is the difficulty of understanding who learned the air as a small boy – Keith, Allen or someone else. The original attribution probably intends only to indicate George Keith is the author of the words. As early as 1869 Josiah Miller wrote that Daniel Sedgwick[1] believed that “K” in Rippon’s Selection was George Keith – a book publisher and the son-in-law of John Gill.[2] Cooper and Allen probably had seen the text attributed to George Keith. This interpretation raises a couple of questions. If Cooper thought George Keith wrote the words, why cite him here but not on page 72 as well? Also, if it was Allen who learned the air as a small boy and not from a book, why is this arrangement in tenor, treble and bass almost exactly as it appears in the tune Sincerity in Southern Harmony? This difficulty might be resolved in several ways. First, there was a George Keith who lived in the general area of Cooper and Allen, who could have been the “learner of this air”. He was George Washington Keith (1852—1951) who, according to U. S. Censuses lived in Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties in Florida and Geneva County in Alabama.[3] He is obviously in Cooper Book territory, but beyond the circumstance of the name, there is no other support for this theory.[4] If the comment about never learning the air in any book is T. J. Allen's and not Keith's, there is the problem of this arrangement obviously being of a song in the Southern Harmony. But the fact that he didn't learn the tune from a book doesn't preclude that he later found the tune in a book and made an arrangement of it. Possibly the best explanation is that the footnote “I learned the air of the above when but a small boy; I have never sung it in any book” are the words of W. M. Cooper. The asterisk leading to the footnote is beside the tune name rather than by the names of either Keith or Allen.[5] This fits Cooper’s use of footnotes on songs elsewhere (though not always) in the 1902 edition – cf. 37, 88b, 348b, et al. If the words in the footnotes are Cooper’s, it leaves “intact” the idea that he thought Keith wrote the words and that Allen made an arrangement of the tune from the Southern Harmony. 

[1] Englishman Daniel Sedgwick (1814–1879) was a hymnologist and bookseller who was consulted by many hymn-book editors.
[2] Singers and Songs of the Church: Being Biographical Sketches of the Hymn-Writers in All the Principal Collections, Josiah Miller, London: Longsman, Green and Co., 1869, p. 349; James credits the words to “George Keith, 1787
[4] And this seems an odd circumstance, given how often George Keith was cited as the author of this hymn, even though incorrectly.
[5] The title might have originally been a misprint intended to be The Foundation rather than The Fountain.

No comments: