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John Coates, Amazing Grace

Dear listers -

For friends and acquaintances -
I have a new email: gw(a)
The old will function for two more weeks. (Please change in your address book)

Now, here's the question I put on choralist:

>I would like some input on John Coates arrangement of Amazing Grace
>(Shawnee Press A-1130):
>Specifically, the first 16 bars are carefully notated as written out
>"swung" (triplet) rhythms. However, before B, the cryptic (perhaps just
>me) note - a feeling of 6-to-the-bar - is placed under seemingly straight
>eighth notes. Additionally the marking is "legato but steady and rhythmic"
>My question - if you've performed this arrangement, did you swing the
>eighths from page 3 onward or keep them straight?

The five responses:
I swing *throughout* except for single bar(s) immediately preceding some of
the verses (I don't have the score in front of me) where it seems to make
sense to "square the rhythm" --I *think* the bar in question is either
immediately preceding the womens' verse or the solo-descant verse; also the
penultimate bar of the solo-descant verse. I then take the unaccompanied
verse "straight" and the coda swung. Why the notational change? It was
easier for Coates to notate only the 1st verse in the swing notation and
then presume we knew what to do from there--like any jazz musician--and the
engravers dutifully engraved exactly what was on the page. Not unlike JS
Bach in some ways. . .
Great arrangement--I've been doing it for years at my church.

Robert Ross, Artistic Director
Voces Novae et Antiquae
Philadelphia, PA
I keep them straight.
The 8th notes seem to have weight in them. I think the overall effect would
be much weaker with a swing.
Noel Piercy, 1st Pres, Caldwell, NJ
I kept them straight and very legato with a distinct and slightly
exagerated phrase shape. It created a nice contrast between sections. Nice
I have done it both ways--depending on the accompanist (!) and I prefer to
have the 8th notes swung throughout.
Martha Springstead
Director of Music
Community United Methodist Church
Virginia Beach, VA
The eighth note groupings in the sections you mention seem to fall in to 3
plus 3 sets; tied notes etc. The pairs of eighth notes can be heard as
rhythmically even but with an accent or separation on the & of beat two
------ 1 & 2 &(accent slightly) 3 & ---- think of the even eighths as
1-2-3-4-5-6 with "4" emphasized to offer a contrast to the 3/4 of the voice
parts. See also the dotted quarter note patterns in the left hand. But
definitely here not the swing or country feel of the intro and coda.
Stan Wood
Mt. Vernon Nazarene College


Response is divided - straight to swung both with good reasons. I guess
only Coates would know for sure!
Thanks for the help, I think we'll swing the first part, and play the
second part straight. I may also dig out an old John Coates Jazz Piano
album and try to see what he does in his playing.