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Pioneer Museum invites all to Sacred Harp Singing

Published 9:24pm Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama will host an all-day Sacred Harp Sing from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Saturday and everyone is invited to come sing along or just sit, listen and enjoy.
Ken Sundberg, organizer of the fifth Sacred Harp Sing at the museum, said between 40 and 60 singers are expected.
“The singers come from all across Alabama and from Florida and Georgia,” Sundberg said. “We posted an invitation on the fasola.org website so we’ve invited anyone in the country who enjoys Sacred Harp singing to join us.”
Sundberg said the first three singings at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama were held the second Saturday in February but there was a conflict with a big Sacred Harp Sing in Minnesota.
“Some of our singers wanted to go up there so we moved ours to the fourth Saturday in February and I don’t think that we’ll change again,” he said. “We want this Sacred Harp Sing to become an annual event.”
While visitors to the Sacred Harp Sing are welcome, Sundberg said the singings are not performances. There are no rehearsals and no separate seats for an audience.
“The singers sit in a hollow square formation with each part – alto, bass, treble, and tenor – taking a side,” Sundberg said. “The songs are sung a cappella and each person has an opportunity to lead a song if they would like. The singing is loud and lively.”
Sundberg said interest and participation is Sacred Harp Singing is increasing.
“Sacred Harp is rooted in Southern gospel music and dates back to the early 18th century,” he said. “It’s uniquely American and, as more people are finding out about it, more people are participating.”
When David Ivey of Huntsville was named a recipient of a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, Sacred Harp Singing was brought into the national spotlight.
The awards ceremony and the concert featuring all recipients were held in Washington D.C.
“David Ivey took a group of Sacred Harp singers from Alabama to sing with him. It was a group of singers that we’re with all the time as we move around to different Sacred Harp singings,” Sundberg said.
“This recognition did a lot to generate interest in Sacred Harp singing in Alabama and across the country.”
However, many people have never heard or even heard of Sacred Harp singing. Harp is an old word for hymnal.
“We invite those who are interested in knowing more to come to the Pioneer Museum of Alabama on Saturday,” Sundberg said. “But the Sacred Harp Sing is not a church meeting so there will be no sitting in the back. And, if you want to sing along, just find a place in the square and join in. You’ll be surrounded by singers that will guide you. And, if you miss a syllable or two, you won’t be the only one.”

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