Sacred Harp Singing Saturday at Pioneer Museum

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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The Pioneer Museum of Alabama will host the annual Sacred Harp Singing in the Museum Village from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.

Sacred Harp, or shape note singers, from the local area and Alabama’s mountain area will sing from the Blue Book and books will be available for those who would like the learn more about Sacred Harp music and, perhaps, join in the singing.

Museum Director Barbara Tatom said those who would like to come and experience the “old way” of singing, will be admitted free to the museum.

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Sacred Harp singing is a tradition of sacred choral music that originated in New England and was later perpetuated and carried on in the American South.

“Sacred Harp is the music of our ancestors and continues to be sung today,” Tatom said.

And, it’s how Kevin Eddins, a regular at the museum singings, learned to sing.

“Most of my life I could not sing, not a lick, even though I wanted to sing,” Eddins said. “But, the way the music was put together in the hymnals – the notes. I just couldn’t sing.” However, Eddins’ experience with Sacred Harp singing made a difference in his life.

“The four shapes of the notes was huge for me in learning to sing,” he said. “I learned to sing by the shape of the notes and then to harmonize.”

Eddins, his wife, Dana and their children all sing Sacred Harp music.

“Our children were born into Sacred Harp singing,” Eddins said. “Family music has long been a time and place for worship for us. Sacred Harp is different from any style of musical harmonization.  The tones and cords are unique but our children   have all learned to sing by the notes so we all sing together as a family and in worship.”

Eddins, agreed that Sacred Harp singing is energetic and loud.

“Sacred harp is full voice; it’s strong harmonies; it’s masculine,” he said. “In church men don’t sing out but, to sing Sacred Harp, you have to sing with a full voice.”

Sacred Harp singers make a loud and joyful noise unto the Lord.

Everyone is invited to join them on Saturday, when the Pioneer Museum of Alabama invites everyone come, listen, learn and sing without reservation.