A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Sacred Harp at the Calvin Symposium on Worship

David W. Music of Baylor led a Sacred Harp workshop at the Calvin Symposium on Worship at Calvin College today. A good number of people where there– a hundred or more, including very large alto and treble sections. They were good, experienced singers who, for the most part, were unfamiliar with Sacred Harp singing.

David did a masterful job of leading people through the shapes and eleven tunes. He started with Martin, a good choice for new Sacred Harp singers struggling with the shapes because there is a lot of repitition and it’s ususally sung slowly. He introduced the ideas of the hollow square, how to lead, dispersed harmony (although not by that name), Dorian mode, and fuging tunes (with Lenox)–a lot to get through in an hour or so! But people were quite experienced musically, and they seemed game to try new things. A couple of people came up to me afterward to find out more.

Still, it seemed to me that most people left with the impression that Sacred Harp is just an interesting reenactment experience, and not so much a living tradition. David mentioned the growing popularity of shape note singing. I had visions of a rising army of organoclasts, but, alas, not from these ranks.


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