‘Do, a deer,’ sang Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. That method of a capella pedagogy is called tonic sol-fa, a form of solfege invented in the early 1800’s by one Sarah Ann Glover and later developed by John Curwen, Zoltan Kodaly and others over the years.
The basic precept was that ‘do’ was a moveable tonic note for any key. Each note in the scale had a name and with some simple punctuation, any Vocal line could be rendered.
This score of Handel’s Messiah is a fascinating glimpse into an inventive notation system that proved useful and popular for many years. The score contains a discussion of performance issues and an explanation of the tonic sol-fa system.