Somerkersfees - Weergawes, perspektiewe en musikale kragte
The popular South African Christmas song Somerkersfees (Summer Christmas), also known as Welkom, o stille nag van vrede (Welcome, o silent night of peace), by Koos du Plessis (1945-1984) exists in two noteworthy versions: Hymn 358 in the Liedboek van die Kerk (Hymnbook of the Church) and Song 337 in the FAK-Sangbundel Volume 2 (FAK Folk Song Anthology Volume 2). Although there are various obvious, but minor differences between these two versions, one of these differences provoked debate among music worship leaders at congregations. This debate is about two bars of rest that are notated in the FAK-version versus the absence of these two bars in the Hymnbook-version – in the one version all phrases are regular and in the other irregular. The various perspectives of this debate are not viewed through a specific lens or substantiated with valid perceptual and theoretical principles, they are merely based on opinions and interpretation preferences of individuals.
The primary aim of this article is to enter this debate with Steve Larson’s theory of musical forces. This theory is constructed of metaphors of physical forces that are interpreted as musical forces. These musical forces are gravity, magnetism and inertia – suitable for use in terms of pitches and the metrical placements of tones. The work that I present in this article by means of Larson’s theory of musical forces can be seen as a pioneering introduction of how this valuable theory can be applied in liturgical music. The analyses of Somerkersfees also contributes to the theory of musical forces: it shows the reciprocal relation between melodic and metric forces, as well as how these forces offer explanations for the existence of different versions. Analyses are first applied to the pitches of Somerkersfees, then on the metrical placements of tones, and these two discussions are then integrated at the end to draw conclusions. The finding is that melodic forces are sometimes stronger and more prominent on the foreground than metrical forces – or vice versa – and the musical forces on the foreground has a significant influence on how listeners hear musical inertia. These aspects can be brought in consideration when debating about Somerkersfees.
The theory of musical forces is not necessarily a solution that will resolve the debate, but it plays an important role in explaining and understanding musical phenomena. Hopefully it will enable music worship leaders to accept that there are two versions of Somerkersfees, rahter than a correct and an erroneous version.