Sacred Harp singing is Saturday at Pioneer Museum

Published 3:00 am Friday, February 24, 2017

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama will be the host site for the 8th Annual All Day Sacred Harp Sing from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Saturday and everyone is invited, said Ken Sundberg, event organizer.

Sundberg said singers for Saturday’s All Day Sing will come from as far north as Birmingham and as far south as the Florida Panhandle. “But most of the singers will be from the Wiregrass area,” he said. “There’s always the possibility that we could have singers who are visiting from places like England and Ireland where there continues to be much interest in Sacred Harp singing. These visitors to the United States will often look for Sacred Harp singings to attend.”

Visitors are always welcome to sit anywhere in the room and participate as listeners or to join the singing.  Sacred Harp singings are not performances. There are no rehearsals and no separate seats for the audience. The singers sit in a hollow square formation with one voice part on each side, all facing inwards in order for all singers to see and hear each other “We have singers of all ages including young children and teens,” Sundberg said. “There’s a large cluster of young singers down in the Covington County area. The interest in Sacred Harp or shape-note singing is defiantly up. Not that we’re the Beatles or something but we are picking up new singers all the time.”

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Sundberg credits the increasing interest in Sacred Harp music to families, first, and then, the association between Sacred Harp and churches that do serious congregational singing. “Those who enjoy the old-time congregational singing are looking for places to sing,” he said. “And, there’s a Sacred Harp singing somewhere around just about every weekend.”

Sundberg, who has been singing Sacred Harp music for 45 years, laughingly, said one fellow was amazed that Sacred Harp singings could go on for up to four hours.

Sacred Harp singers sing without restraint or reservation or with eyes on the clock.  “Sacred Harp singers just love to sing,” Sundberg said. “And, it’s energetic singing and yes, it’s loud. I don’t know of but one song in ‘The Sacred Harp’ songbook that says, ‘sing softly.’”

Psalm 95 reads: Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout out loud to the Rock of our salvation.  Sundberg said that scripture is at the heart of Sacred Harp.  “The harp in Sacred Harp music refers to the human voice – the musical instrument given at birth.”

Some people refer to the a cappella type of singing as Sacred Heart and Sundberg said that is not altogether incorrect.

“We do sing from the heart,” he said.