Museum to host shape note singing

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

‘The Pioneer Museum of Alabama will host the 7th Annual All Day Sacred Harp Sing from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to come and participate in the sing or just sit back and enjoy the music.

The annual sing is led by Ken Sundberg of Troy and a group of independent singers from Alabama and the surrounding states.

“We meet to share the fun of these old songs that speak to religious themes, a few patriotic expressions and some to deep personal sentiments dealing with joy or personal loss,” Sundberg said. “We accept all participants. There is no test of fellowship. All are welcome.”

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The 2012 Edition of the B.F. White version of “The Sacred Harp” is the book of choice for the sing and books will be available.

“We sing in groups dedicated to the four parts of each song– tenor or lead, bass, alto, and treble,” Sundberg said. “The parts seat themselves in a square, and individual leaders called by our secretary go to the center of the square and lead a song of their choice.  The leader or a key-master sets the key for the song, and the fun begins.”

Sundberg said the singers go through the song once singing the notes by name.

“These names –fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi –correspond to the shapes which are triangle, circle, square, triangle, circle, square and diamond,” he said.  “Those shapes complete an octave, dominant tonic to dominant tonic.”

The group then sings the lyric poetry.  The leader selects the verses to be sung and the repeats to be taken.

“The entire procedure is done without instrumental support,” Sundberg said. “Voice only. The human voice is the Sacred Harp.”

Breaks in the sing are taken every half hour to 45 minutes.

“We will have dinner on the grounds,” Sundberg said. “We have permission to set up dinner in the singing space of the main museum and the picnic grounds are also available, as is the Reunion Cabin.”

All those who attend the sing are invited to join in the fellowship of the shared lunch.

Sacred Harp singing has been traced back to the country parish music of early 18th century England. Around the mid-18th century, styles of the English country parish music were introduced to America. Sacred Harp singing is deeply rooted in the South. Everyone who enjoys Sacred Harp music or just wants to experience this roots music is invited to Saturday’s sing.

“Anyone attending the sing should come prepared to be accepted with love and joy,” Sundberg said. “Come to listen. Stay to sing. First time singers get the same respect as the sagest veteran.”