18 February 2015

Sacred Harp group singing session in Belfast, 22 Feb. 2015

The Open House Festival team in Belfast announce that on this coming Sunday, 22 February, a Sacred Harp group singing session will be held in the Megaw Room, Newtownbreda (St John’s) Presbyterian Church Hall, 374-8 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, from 7.30 to 9.30 p.m. Admission is free; a donation of £1 is suggested. For more info, contact the Belfast Sacred Harp Facebook page. The Open Festival team also give the following introductory information in their e-newsletter:

Sacred Harp (or shape note) singing is a powerful traditional form of four-part harmony from the southern states of America, performed a cappella (without instruments) that can range from a dozen to a thousand people at a session. It is going through a revival after its recent prominence in the soundtrack of the film Cold Mountain.

'Shape note' refers to the four distinctly shaped notes (fa, so, la and mi) used to aid sight-reading. 'Sacred Harp' comes from the songbook of this name, first published in 1844, and used by most singers today. It is widely regarded as instrumental in keeping the folk hymn tradition alive, including such pieces as 'Amazing grace'. The singers sit in a hollow square formation with one voice part on each side, all facing inwards so they can hear and see each other. Visitors are always welcome to join in, or sit anywhere in the room and participate as listeners.

This class is secular and no singing or choral experience is needed. All welcome.

YouTube examples of Sacred Harp singing are given at the following links: 'I'm going home' and '"Awake my soul: the story of the Sacred Harp" movie trailer'.

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