Hail, Smiling morn! – 2022 edition

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes that 2022 will be an improvement on the past year. (A low bar, I know.) Anyway, when I first published this post, on January 1, 2021, I wrote: 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.”

Well, it turns out that “not quite done” was an optimistic estimate, as I became distracted by so many other research topics and posts and never got around to discussing the second part of the Milwaukee Beethoven Society’s concert. New Year’s Day is here again, and I’m still not done, alas, but I have not forgotten and—with luck—I will finish that post some time this winter.

A spot of Spofforth to ring in the New Year…

Meanwhile, let’s start the New Year on a cheerful note by reprising last year’s festive musical selection, drawn from that second part of the Milwaukee Beethoven Society’s 1843 premiere concert:

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

Our New Year’s sing-along number is “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.

Here’s a performance of Spofforth’s glee sung as a Christmas carol by the Ebanezar Marthoma Church Choir, Peroorkada, Trivandrum, Kerala State, India (with an additional, specifically religious, verse added):

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

And finally, this lively performance by the aptly-named Harmonious Chorale of Accra, Ghana:

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

Lyrics

Here’s the text, in case you’d like to sing along:

Hail smiling morn, smiling morn,
That tips the hills with gold, that tips the hills with gold,
Whose rosy fingers ope the gates of day,
Ope the gates, the gates of day,
Hail! Hail! Hail! Hail!

Who the gay face of nature doth unfold,
Who the gay face of nature doth unfold,
At whose bright presence darkness flies away, flies away,
Darkness flies away, darkness flies away,
At whose bright presence darkness flies away, flies away,
Hail! Hail! Hail! Hail!Hail! Hail! Hail! Hail!

Happy New Year to all! Back soon with more Clark House history.

P.S. And drive safely!

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