Billings, William. (1746–1800)

The Continental Harmony, Containing a Number of Anthems, Fuges, and Chorusses, in Several Parts. Never Before Published. Composed by -- Author of Various Music Books. […] Published According to Act of Congress.

Boston: Printed, Typographically at Boston by Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews. Sold at their Bookstore, No. 45, Newbury Street; by said Thomas in Worcester; and by the Booksellers in Boston, and elsewhere. 1794. First edition. Letterpress pages. Pp. [i - iv], v-xxxiv, [35]-199, [1] p., [1] leaf of plates [ "Index"], final blank. Original blue paper over boards, sheep spine. Wanting the engraved frontispiece, which it was evidently bound without, indicated by foxing and offset patterns. Other copies are similarly deprived (eg LOC, a copy at Clements), but we have supplied an expert facsimile of his famous circular composition "Connection," printed on early and agreeably toned laid paper. Paper chipped from front board, otherwise a fine and exceptionally clean copy - dare we say, this is almost certainly the crispest condition Billings you are ever likely to encounter. Contained in a dropspine cloth box.

Rare. OCLC records only six copies and none outside the United States. Sabin 5415, Evans 26673, RISM, A/I/1, B2655, Britton & Lowens 104.

The final collection published by the father of American choral music. Published in Boston by Thomas and Andrews in 1794, it was sponsored by several musical societies to help the "distressed situation of Mr. Billings' family." The fifty-one compositions with full text include one set-piece for four voices, seventeen anthems, and poems and hymns by Isaac Watts, the «Father of English Hymnody», among them the renowned «Creation» (pp. 52–54). The tune book has an introductory section on the rudiments of music and a commentary on the rules in the form of a dialogue between a master and scholar. "In its introduction, Billings defended his rustic native style in the face of the public's increasing preference for the more refined, less demanding European idiom. 'Variety is always pleasing, and...there is more variety in one piece of fuging music, than in twenty pieces of plain song.'" (John Ogasapian, "Music of the Colonial & Revolutionary Era," p. 140)

"The...last of his publications contains longer, more complex works intended for the knowledgeable choirs and singing societies. In none of the pieces is originality sought. Nevertheless, the sound is a counterpart of the rocky soil and questing spirit that typified many of his contemporary New Englanders. Billings's music held the attention of music lovers for its melodic expression, effortless vitality, and suitability to the requirements and limitations of amateur singers. No matter what the vocal part, it is not hard to sing and enjoy. All the singers are given interesting lines to engage their attention. If some of the notes in a part do not please, the composer occasionally offers the singer 'choosing' notes from which he or she can select." (Nicholas Tawa, "From Psalm to Symphony," p. 37-38)

"In early 1782, of the 264 musical compositions published by American-born writers, 226 of them were by Billings. Of the 200 anthems published in American by 1810, over a quarter were written by Billings." (Elizabeth Axford, "Song Sheets to Software," p. 5) (11357)

Printed Music