Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brief Shape Note History

The kids and i had to give a family presentation last week for Classical Conversations.  So we told our classmates a bit about shape note singing.

Shape note singing, also known as Sacred Harp, is an early American music that has roots in 16th century Europe.

The English used a four-note system centuries ago, but did not use different shapes.
When colonists came to America, they brought their traditions with them.
And soon, Shape Note Singing evolved and was being used to teach church congregations how to sing. Nearly everyone in early America, learned to read music using a system of shaped notes. Many well known hymns, were written as Shape Note Songs.
In the early 1800's, soon after our nation won its independence, Shape Note Singing was slowly driven from its first home in New England by people who considered it too raw and coarse, preferring refined European music.
But shape-note singing took root in the rural South and the lower Midwest, where it continued to flourish.

Many changes took place after the Civil War, and Shape Note Singing declined to the point of being considered extinct. But in 1935, it was revealed that thousands of traditional singers were still flourishing in the southern mountains.

In recent years, Shape Note Singing has enjoyed a revival in its old territories, including New England and Europe.

Sacred Harp music is divided into 4 parts: treble, alto, tenor, and bass. Singers sit in a hollow square with each part taking a side and facing the center.
The song leader stands in the center and beats time while facing the tenor section. The hand and arm motions are a traditional way of keeping time.
Everyone leads a song, and before singing the words to the song, we “sing the notes' by singing the syllables of the shapes.

Fa
Sol
La
Mi

And then we led 209 Evening Shade.  
But instead, i leave you with my outhouse video. During the Labor Day Sing, i came out of the outhouse and the sound seemed so beautiful wafting from the old windows.  So although the quality of camera and filming is poor, it adds to the "raw and coarse" sound that people either love or hate.  
video

1 comment:

Kathy Stam said...

very pretty sound and day!