Hail, Smiling morn!

A spot of Spofforth to ring in the New Year…

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes that 2021 will be an improvement on the past year. I’m almost done with my research on the second half of the 1843 concert by the Milwaukie Beethoven Society. (If you missed our earlier posts on that concert, links are here and here.) But it’s New Year’s Day, and I’m not quite done writing about “Part Second.” So let’s have another festive musical selection, this one drawn from that second part of the Beethoven Society’s premiere concert:

Milwaukee Weekly Sentinel March 15 1843, page 2. Click to open larger image in new window.

We’ll start the year with “Hail Smiling morn” by the English composer Reginald Spofforth (1769-1827). Spofforth was a man of many talents, but was particularly known for his glees. A glee is a kind of convivial part-song, typically for three or more voices and usually—but not always—sung without accompaniment. I’ll have more to say about this particular composer and piece later, but for now, it’s well enough to know that “Hail Smiling morn” is—according to musicologist Nicholas Temperly—”possibly the most popular glee in the entire repertory,” and that’s saying something!

“Hail Smiling morn” remains a popular pub song in parts of England and—as you’ll soon see—in many other venues around the world, both secular and sacred. “Hail Smiling morn” is frequently sung by church choirs as a Christmas or Easter carol. I think it works wonderfully for New Year’s Day, too. Below are three spirited modern performances of the piece. Just click the image to open a new YouTube window for each video. (The piece is only about 3 minutes long; enjoy all three performances!)

The first video is from a Sunday pub sing at The Royal, in Dungworth—near Sheffield—England. In many ways this is the modern equivalent of the friendly and well-lubricated singing at the glee and catch clubs of 18th-century England:

Click image or this YouTube link to open video in new window. Photo: screenshot of performance.

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