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Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4

Rain Dog 03 Dec 12 - 03:20 AM
TopcatBanjo 03 Dec 12 - 09:15 AM
ChanteyLass 03 Dec 12 - 11:17 PM
Will Fly 04 Dec 12 - 04:13 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Dec 12 - 08:11 AM
Will Fly 04 Dec 12 - 08:28 AM
melodeonboy 04 Dec 12 - 08:31 AM
billybob 04 Dec 12 - 08:37 AM
GUEST,Jemma Gurney 04 Dec 12 - 09:01 AM
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Subject: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: Rain Dog
Date: 03 Dec 12 - 03:20 AM

Due on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, Monday 3rd December. Should be available to listen to on the website after the broadcast

Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
Monday 3rd December - 16:00

Cerys Matthews visits Alabama to uncover a sacred choral tradition. Widely practiced before the American Civil War, Sacred Harp singing is currently experiencing a global resurgence.

Once called 'white spiritual', this haunting unaccompanied choral tradition survived in the small rural Baptist churches of the American Deep South. Very different to bluegrass and to African American Gospel music, Sacred Harp preserved Anglo-Celtic practices that were subsequently lost in the UK.

Today, this music is spreading from the Deep South around the US and is even developing a following in the UK. Cerys travels to an all-day singing convention in Alabama to find out why the music is not just surviving but flourishing. In an age when church attendance is dropping fast, what is attracting people all over the US and the UK to sing archaic hymns?

Also called 'shape note singing', the music is based around the Sacred Harp hymn book compiled in Georgia in 1844. The pages show different shapes above the words to indicate the notes, enabling songs to be sung on sight. Gatherings are arranged in a hollow square with the self-selected leader entering the middle to call out the number of their chosen song. No applause or audience is allowed. Far removed from 'happy clappy', they are often austere hymns with themes of death and the pain of everyday existence.

Contributors include Hugh McGraw, Jesse Karlsberg, Warren Steele, Reba Del Windom, Henry Johnson, Michael Walker, Emma Rose Brown and Sam Carter.

For information on Sacred Harp singing around the UK:
http://www.ukshapenote.org.uk/
http://londonsacredharp.org/

Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: TopcatBanjo
Date: 03 Dec 12 - 09:15 AM

I am looking forward to hearing this. I must say that I am severely irritated by that bit of the blurb (quoted above) that says that this music "is even developing a following in the UK"....yeah, it's only been established over here since the mid 1990s or something! I've been singing Sacred Harp in the UK since 2005 and still think of myself as fairly new to the community. Let's hope that the programme makers have become better informed since writing that.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 03 Dec 12 - 11:17 PM

I love this sound. During Summerfest in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Sunday concerts are preceded by a Sacred Harp Sing for those who choose to participate. There is are also monthly Sacred Harp Sings in some communities. The closest one for me is in Providence, Rhode Island. One of the interesting things is that the music is divided into four-part harmony, but some people can sing a part an octave higher or lower than it is written, so the resulting harmony is more than four parts.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 04:13 AM

I listened to the programme and found it quite interesting - more for the social background to the singing than the music itself, though that was worth a listen as well.

I would perhaps have liked a little more technical discussion on the shape notes, but you can't get everything into 30 minutes.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 08:11 AM

I attend a Lutheran church, and our new hymnal aimed at diversity. One form diversity took was that the editors included fine tunes from the shape note tradition. When I look at the credits and see a tune from the collection "The Sacred Harp" or from a 19th C. collection called "Something Harmony," there is a good chance that the tune will be interesting, memorable, and probably haunting.

In November we were practicing such a tune when a member commented, "That's so sad." I told him not to think of it as sad, but to picture himself in the Smoky Mountains, gazing down at a valley silver-gray with mist but studded with orange autumn trees. I don't know if he did, but at least he stopped complaining. Just because something is minor or modal doesn't mean it has to be sad.

Will Fly, what the note shapes do is tell you what interval to jump. One shape means a fifth, another a fourth, another a third. In an old thread, a person posting here said she learned the system very quickly, because experienced singers explained it to her, then she caught on because they were doing it all around her as they all sang.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 08:28 AM

Oh I know how the system works in broad terms - I'm interested in how it arose, what relation it might bear to medieval notation, where the chosen song' starting point might be, etc., etc. All sorts of fun stuff - but I know that 30 minutes wasn't long enough to go that route.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: melodeonboy
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 08:31 AM

I was listening to it in the car on the way home from work. So taken was I by it that when I got home, I just sat in the car and listened to the rest of the programme beore I got out! "Collective howling at the moon" as one of the singers described it.

Fierce and wonderful! I'd like to try it myself!


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: billybob
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 08:37 AM

Loved the programme, any groups in Essex? I went to a workshop run by Dave Bryant years ago and would love to try again!
Wendy


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Sacred Harp - BBC Radio 4
From: GUEST,Jemma Gurney
Date: 04 Dec 12 - 09:01 AM

Stevenage?

monthly sings

I go to the Sheffield one, which only started in October, so I'm guessing this list is fairly up to date.

Jemma


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