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This month's Free Tablature is
"Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy" (Beach Spring)

Joseph Hart, lyrics - 1759

Music - "Beach Spring", from the "Sacred Harp" Shape Note Tunebook - 1844





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This month's free tab is an arrangement of a traditional American folk tune called "Beach Spring".   The melody has been used for numerous hymns, dating back to the prominent "shape note hymnals" of the day.   The tradition of shape note singing in this country dates back to the early 1800's, when the 4-shape note system was introduced in schools and churches as a means of associating the relative pitches of a musical scale with shapes.   This way people who didn't read music could still learn to sight read music that was written out in "shapes".

Benjamin Franklin White began his musical career playing the fife in a military band during the War of 1812.   Later, he and his brother-in-law William Walker collaborated in collecting folk tunes and camp meeting melodies.   They also tried their hand at composing tunes of their own.   However, when Walker had the collection published in 1835 under the title of "The Southern Harmony", he made no mention of White's contributions, causing a life-long rift between the two men.   A few years later, White teamed up with Elisha King to produce a volume of shape note hymns they called "The Sacred Harp", and it quickly eclipsed "The Southern Harmony" as the most popular volume of shape note tunes.   This was due in large part to White's talents and efforts as a teacher, and also because he organized and promoted the first so-called "singing conventions" (The Southern Musical Convention) to insure the continuation of annual singings.

"Beach Spring" was used for a number of different hymns in both "The Southern Harmony" and "The Sacred Harp".   The most well known of these from "The Sacred Harp" is called "Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy", whose lyrics were written by Joseph Hart in 1759.   A related hymn is called "Jesus is Willing".   Over the years, many other hymns have been set to this melody, including "Jesus At Your Holy Table", "Come All Christians Be Committed", "Lord Whose Love in Humble Service", and "Healing River of the Spirit".  The tune was featured as the theme song for the Ken Burns 1997 PBS documentary about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Here's a link to a YouTube video of a montage of shape note singing photos set to a background track of "Come Ye Sinners" (Beach Spring) which was recorded at a shape note singing convention held in Flora, Indiana.

Here's another version of  Beach Spring being played on mandola.

Enjoy, and wishing you all a Happy Spring!

In music and friendship,




Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r.

I'll arise and go to Jesus,
He'll embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.


JPG Dulcimer









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Beach Spring


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