13 February 2020

Cork Sacred Harp celebrates a decade with 10th Annual Convention, 29 Feb.-1 Mar. 2020

Thanks to Laurie Skelton of Cork Sacred Harp for this logo and press release (a fine introduction to Sacred Harp singing for those who are new to it):

Cork Sacred Harp will host the tenth annual Ireland Sacred Harp Singing Convention on 29 February through 1 March 2020 at St Maries of the Isle on Bishop St. in Cork city.

The Sacred Harp Singers of Cork have been meeting every week to sing melodies from the Sacred Harp for over a decade. Drop by the Unitarian Church on Princes Street any Thursday at 7.00 p.m. and, as you walk through the front door, you’ll be met with a booming chorus of voices singing a cappella 'shape-note' harmonies. Once inside, however, you may be surprised to find the number of people singing rarely matches the impressive sound heard from the street. In the centre of the room, somewhere between seven and fifteen people are seated in a small cluster of chairs arranged in a square formation. Here, the community is small and the voices are big.

Sacred Harp music isn’t your typical choral music and Sacred Harp singers aren’t your typical choral singers. The music itself uses a system of 'shape notes' — comprised of squares, triangles, circles, and diamonds—as an extra visual aid for reading music. When singing a song from the book, singers first 'sing the shapes' on the page as syllables before singing the song with the words. Singers are typically — though not required to be —untrained, and sing in their full voice. Some come to singing through generations of family tradition, while others simply fall into it.

Over the past ten years, the group gathering to sing every week in Cork has fluctuated, occasionally growing and occasionally shrinking. Sometimes twenty people show up. Sometimes four. But the spirit has never wavered and the singing has never stopped. And, no matter how small the group becomes, their numbers swell exponentially each year in March as hundreds of singers from all over the world show up to Cork for the annual Ireland Sacred Harp Convention — come rain or sleet or snow.

The Ireland Sacred Harp Convention is one of the largest in Europe and draws quite the crowd of shape-note singers from all across Europe and North America. The sound is impressive and the atmosphere is both warm and welcoming. Singing along is highly encouraged. To get a sense of what the music sounds like, you can find recordings from Cork Sacred Harp on YouTube and Bandcamp. For those interested in participating, all voices are welcome and no experience is necessary. More details are available on Facebook, on Meetup, and at corksacredharp.com.

Thurs. 27 Feb. 2020: 19.00–21.00, weekly singing in the Unitarian, Princes St., Cork
Fri. 28 Feb. 2020: 19.00–21.00, Singing School with Sadhbh O'Flynn in St Maries of the Isle, Bishop St., Cork
Sat. 29 Feb.-Sun. 1 Mar. 2020: 10.30–16.00, Tenth Ireland Convention in St Maries of the Isle, Bishop St., Cork (09.30-10.00; registration on both days)

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