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Songs by William Billings in Shape Note notation

Last updated: Sept 13, 2011 (over 50 songs in shapes are listed here).

Original Billings frontispiece for Continental Harmony 1800.

Tune name
(Links to PDF file on this site)
Availability in Shape Notes
(Links to PDF files on other sites)
AfricaIn The Sacred Harp, page 178
Now shall my inward joys arise,And burst into a song;
(The New England Psalm Singer, 1770).
Amherst Harmonia Sacra page 192t
Lord of the worlds above, how pleasant and how fair,
Andover Awake, my heart; arise, my tongue, Prepare a tuneful voice;
In God, the life of all my joys Aloud will I rejoice.

William Billings The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (1781).
Lyrics: Isaac Watts Hymns and Sacred Songs (1707-9), No. 20.

An Anthem, for Fast DayFrom Isaiah, chapter 1
Hear, hear O heav'ns, and give ear O earth
for the Lord hath spoken
I have nourish'd and brought up children
and they have rebell'd

Minnesota Harmony Project page

An Anthem, for ThanksgivingFrom Psalm 148
O praise the Lord of Heaven

Minnesota Harmony Project page

AuroraBillings wrote the words
Awake my soul look up and view
the glorious sun who has begun his daily task anew.

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Andover Awake, my heart; arise, my tongue, Prepare a tuneful voice;
In God, the life of all my joys Aloud will I rejoice.

William Billings The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (1781).
Lyrics: Isaac Watts Hymns and Sacred Songs (1707-9), No. 20.

AssuranceIn The Sacred Harp, page 91
BeneficenceIn The Sacred Harp, page 486
Bear CreekIn  The Sacred Harp, page 269

Clear two-page version for those who yearn to see the syllables neatly matched with the notes.

More learning resources.

BellinghamIsaac Watts (1707)
Begin my tongue some heavn'ly theme,
And speak some boundless thing,

Minnesota Harmony Project page

BethlehemNorumbega Harmony, page 4
(While shepherds watched their flocks)
BoltonThe Singing Master's Assistant(1778)

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore
(words: Charles Wesley, Moral and Sacred Poems, 1744).

BostonNorumbega Harmony, page 6
BrookfieldNorumbega Harmony, page 3
ChesterIn The Sacred Harp, page 479

With original patriotic words.

CohassetThe Continental Harmony, 1794

Life is the time to serve the Lord, The time t’insure the great reward

Words: Isaac Watts (Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707-9), Part 1, no. 88.

Connection Hail! Sacred Music hail! We offer at thy shrine
One perfect round complete in sound, celestial and divine.

The Continental Harmony, 1794
alternate PDF file (with line break)
Original page from Yale (Beinecke rare book collection).
Referring page for above.

CreationNorumbega Harmony, page 44
David’s LamentationIn The Sacred Harp page 268
DudleyIsaac Watts (1719) Psalm 13
How long, O Lord, shall I complain, Like one that seeks his God in vain?
Music in Miniature, 1779
Easter AnthemIn The Sacred Harp, page 236
With a slightly different version in Norumbega Harmony page 38.
EgyptIsaac Watts: Psalm 66
Come see the wonders of our God, How glorious are his ways
In Moses' hands he puts his rod, and cleaves the frighted seas

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Funeral AnthemIn The Sacred Harp page 320
Great-PlainIsaac Watts (Horae Lyricae; 1706-1709)
Ye slumbr'ing saints a heav'nly host,
stands waiting at your gaping tombs,
let ev'ry sacred sleeping dust,
leap into life for Jesus comes.

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Hull Norumbega Harmony page 17
HeathThomas Flatman (1674)
Awake my soul! Awake my eyes! Awake my drowsy faculties
Awake and see the new born light Sprang from the darksome womb of night

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Independence (The States, O Lord)Anthem (11 pages): Billings paraphrases Isaac Watts and Tate & Brady
The states O Lord with songs of praise
shall in Thy strength rejoice
And blest with thy salvation raise to heav'n their cheerful voice.

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Invocationwords by Billings (The Continental harmony, 1794)
Majestic God, our muse inspire, And fill us with seraphic fire
Augment our swells, our tones refine, Performance ours, the glory Thine.

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Boston Camerata performance on YouTube (about 2 minutes)

Jargon Let horrid Jargon split the Air and rive my nerves asunder.
Let hateful discord greet my ear as terrible as Thunder.

"let a hog who is extream hungry squeal the counter"

The Singing Master's Assistant (1778)

With different words by singer Tom Malone

Performance on YouTube with original words described as "Solfege fun at the Longy School of Music!"

JordanIn The Sacred Harp page 66.
YouTube of 3 generations leading this song in Pickney, Missouri. Nice full congregational sound.
JudeaMissouri Harmony page 178
KitteryNorumbega Harmony page 14
Missouri Harmony page 172 (arranged by P. Dan Brittain)
Lilypond file: Lamentation over Boston
Lamentation over Boston By the Rivers of Watertown we sat down and wept

The Singing Master's Assistant (1778)

YouTube Except for the bass solo, it sounds to me like an all-female choir, where the trebles and tenors drown out the altos, and the bass(es) seem mostly absent.

Laura Conrad has a MIDI file of this piece.

Dan Harper (Palo Alto) offers this version of a Billings round as more suitable to be passed around in a Shape Note group.
(different Billings tune; same sentiment)
LebanonNorumbega Harmony page 2
MadridJames Relly (1722-1778)
How charmingly sounds the word of the Lord
where witness abounds that man is restored

Dan Harper's website has disccusion and PDF file.

Majesty In The Sacred Harp page 291
Different version Norumbega Harmony page 8.
2-page PDF file (much easier to read).
MarylandNorumbega Harmony page 10
MendomMissouri Harmony page 103

Harmonia Sacra page 212
Vain delusive world adieu, With all thy creature good
Only Jesus I pursue Who bought me with his blood.

(Charles Wesley)

MorpheusThomas Flatman (1674)
Sleep! downy sleep! come close my eyes, Tired with beholding vanities!
Sweet slumbers come and chase away The toils and follies of the day:

Music in Miniature, 1779
Newingham/New HinghamHesperian Harp page 263b
Death O the awful sound, what horrors in it dwell,
The second death is here implied, which sinks our souls to hell.
North ProvidenceMissouri Harmony page 147
OxfordIsaac Watts (1709) Psalm 113, altered
Ye saints and servants of the Lord, The triumphs of his name record;
His sacred name for ever bless.

Music in Miniature, 1779
ParisMissouri Harmony page 51
PetersburgIn The Sacred Harp page 174
PetersburgHesperian Harp page 445
thus saith the high and lofty One, I sit upon my holy throne
My name is God, I dwell on high, Dwell in my own eternity.
Phoebus In The Sacred Harp page 173
PumpilyTate & Brady Psalm 148 (1696)
Ye boundless realms of joy, exalt your Maker's fame;
His praise your song employ above the starry frame.
Singing Master's Assistant, 1778
RichmondNorumbega Harmony page 16
Rocky-NookIsaac Watts (1707) hymn 1:41.
Those glorious minds how bright they shine, whence all their bright array,
How came they to the happy seats of everlasting day?

Minnesota Harmony Project page

Rose of SharonIn The Sacred Harp page 254

some learning resources for Rose of Sharon.

SaybrookIsaac Watts (1709) Psalm 139 third part
My God, what inward grief I feel When impious men transgress thy will!
I mourn to hear their lips profane Take thy tremendous Name in vain.

Music in Miniature, 1779
ShilohMissouri Harmony page 126
SudburyNorumbega Harmony page 36

Missouri Harmony page 137 (arranged by William Hauser)

.jpg from Hesperian Harp

SundayNorumbega Harmony page 12
Thomas Town Great God how frail a thing is man, How swift his minutes pass,
His age contracts within a span, He blooms and dies like grass.

William Billings: The Continental Harmony (1794)
Words by Dr. Biles, with reference to Psalm Ps 90:5.

UnionSouthern Harmony page 39b
From whence does this union arise, That hatred is conquered by love?
It fastens our souls with such ties, That distance and time can't remove.
VermontIn The Sacred Harp, page 180
Wake every breath


A canon (round) (8s)

Wake every breath and every string, To bless the great Redeemer King;
His name through every clime adored! Let joy, and gratitude, and love,
Through all the notes of music move, And 'Jesus' sound on every chord.

William Billings (words and music) The New England Psalm Singer (Boston, 1770)

Original copperplate engraving of this song, with artwork by Paul Revere.

Walnut The first stanza (8.7 8.7) is the same as "Jargon" (1781), but then a second stanza (common meter) is added.

Let harmony be banish'd hence and Consonance depart;
Let dissonance erect her throne and reign within my Heart.

The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (1781).

a discussion of this song with MP3 File.

WarehamIsaac Watts, 1707 (same words as "Boylston")
My God, my life, my love, To Thee, to Thee I call;
I cannot live if Thou remove, For Thou art all in all.

Minnesota Harmony Project page


Come sing compositions by William Billings with us on Thursday evenings!
Another Billings fan in Los Angeles.

A Billings project in Minnesota.
Link to other singings in Los Angeles area
More information on Shape Note Singing in general

Contact: David Olson (310) 410-9033 for more details.