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date: 17 November 2019


  • Carolyn Livingston


Capital city of Rhode Island (pop. 175,255; metropolitan area: 627, 690; 2010 US Census). Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485–1528) wrote in 1524 that as he heard the natives singing while he voyaged through Narragansett Bay he was reminded of the voices in his native Florence. Indigenous people in what is now Rhode Island mourned their dead and worshiped through music. Highly spiritual, southern New England tribes would often connect to the earth by striking it with ground beaters as they sang and danced.

Puritan leader Roger Williams (c1603–83) moved to Rhode Island from Massachusetts in 1636 and soon acquired land for a new village at the head of what was then called the Great Salt River. Williams named the new village Providence. His followers were generally educated middle-class workers from England’s urban centers. Extraordinarily pious, a cappella psalm singing was important to their worship....

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The New Grove Dictionary of American Music