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The Sacred Harp - Shape Note Singing

Sacred Harp singing is the largest surviving branch of traditional American Shape Note Singing. "Sacred Harp" refers to The Sacred Harp, a book first published in 1844 and continuously updated since. Along with other hymn books from the era, its repertoire of 550 4-part a cappella hymns, odes, and anthems is part of the foundation of a vibrant oral tradition handed down since Colonial times and still practiced at hundreds of annual singing meetings, conventions, and local singing groups throughout the country.

Displaying 1-11 of 11 items.

Allison's Sacred Harp Singers : Heaven's My Home

Review: The 1927-1928 recordings by J.T. Allison's ensemble are rare instances of the convergence of two important cultural movements of the southeastern U.S.-the emerging country music recording industry and the tradition of singing religious folk music from shape-note tunebooks. The Allisons recorded music directly from "The Sacred Harp," compiled in Georgia in 1844, which used musical notes in 4 shapes, representing degrees of the musical scale, to aid in learning and reading religious music. The emphasis of this music is large public gatherings, where throngs of singers gather for an intense musical and spiritual experience-everyone comes to sing and there is no discernable audience. 21 songs, lightly accompanied, richly harmonic and sincerely sung by non-professional, but certainly competent, singers: "The Heavenly Port," "The Old Ship of Zion," "Sweet Rivers," "The Golden Harp," "Jewett," "Pisgah," "Sweet Prospect," "The Morning Trumpet," "Ester," "I'm A Long Time Traveling Away From Home," "I Belong to this Band," "Sweet Morning" and "Heaven's My Home." Although its use declined over the 19th century, we love "Home" and the other shape-note recordings we've heard. Rich history and photos in the extensive liner notes booklet.

Songlist: The Heavenly Port, Bound for Canaan, The Old Ship of Zion, Exhilaration, Antioch, Sweet Rivers, Hallelujah, The Golden Harp, Traveling Pilgrim, Jewett, Pisgan, Sweet Prospect, Weeping Pilgrim, Sweet Canaan, Penick, The Morning Trumpet, Ester, I'm a Long Time Traveling Away from Home, I Belong to This Band, Sweet Morning, Heaven's My Home

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3034c | 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella |

Melodious Accord - Alice Parker : Sweet Manna

Review: The 17 varied early American songs of praise found in songbooks published between 1790 and 1830 in "Sweet Manna" give us a glimpse of the musical life of the early settlers and the changing modes of Christian worship as the country developed. The rich variety of lyrics and tunes include cheerful gathering songs like "My God, the Spring of All My Joy;" slow, reflective moods as in "Deep Distress and Troubled Thoughts;" sprightly dances: "When Some Kind Shepherd from His Fold;" and joyous marches: "My Soul, Triumphant in the Lord." Fuguing tunes like "How Pleased and Blessed Was I" and "Through Every Age, Eternal God" release their energies; while more modal melodies like "Return, O God of Love, Return" shed a quiet grace. The mixed a cappella voices of MMA are strong and soaring, and these powerful songs are sung with spirit and feeling, and it is easy to imagine being in the congregations where they were first sung, joining in wonderful choruses of praise.

Songlist: Almighty Maker, God, My Thoughts, That Often Mount the Skies, When Some Kind Shepherd from His Fold, Ye Boundless Realms of Joy, How Pleased and Blessed Was I, From Deep Distress and Troubled Thoughts, What Is Our God, or What His Name, My Soul, Triumphant in the Lord, To God, in Whom I Trust, Hear Me, O Lord, nor Hide Thy Face, My Soul, the Great Creator Praise, How Short and Hasty Is Our Life, How Soft the Words My Savior Speaks, Through Every Age, Eternal God, Return, O God of Love, Return, My God! The Spring of All My Joys, Brethren, We Have Met to Worship

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6867c | 1 CD | $15.98 | A Cappella || Companion Songbook Available | Parker, Alice 

Southern Traditonal Singers : The Social Harp: Early American Shape Note Songs

Review: Leading Sacred Harp singers from Georgia and Alabama, led by Hugh McGraw, perform songs from the 1855 work The Sacred Harp. This collection by John Gordan McCurry (a farmer and singing master rom upper Georgia) was neglected for over a century. This album is one of the few in which any of the 19th century shape note compositions can be heard in their original three-voice settings.

Songlist: Singing school, Jolly Soldier, Buonaparte, Marion, Musgrove, Wake Up, The Beggar, Heavenly Meeting, Raymond, Good-by, Zion's Walls, O Save the Royal Band, Few Days, Weeping Mary, Come, Tell me of Your Ship, Heavenly King, The Traveller, To the Land, Lisbon

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8669c | 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella |

Various : From Pole to Pole

Review: This fine recording includes a lively set of contemporary shape-note compositions by Don Jamison, Toby Tenenbaum, Seth Houston, Moira Smiley and Chandler York; traditional Shaker and shape-note tunes; as well as a rich selection of songs from Bulgaria, Republic of Georgia and South Africa.

Songlist: Kingdom - Jamison, Hays Creek - Tenenbaum, Bondage - Swan, Shaker Medley - Swan, Zaspala Lisisjaogda, Junak Vurvi, Padna Mugla Dilber, Kitka Mi Padna Male, Kavali Svirjat, Song Of Wondering Aengus - Jamison, Spring And Fall - Jamison, Inversnaid - Jamison / Pied Beauty - Jamison, Elia Irde - Svaneti, Nanila - Svaneti, Qansav Qipiane - Svaneti, Zametari - Kakheti, Siqvarulman Mogiqvana, Namgalo-arkhalalo - Kakheto, Lake Forest - Houston, Lewis - Smiley, Pondicherry - York, Koloi Ya Eliya - South Africa, Rock Of Ages - N. Harmony

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9898c | 1 CD | $14.95 | A Cappella |

Various Artists : I Belong to This Band - 85 Years of Sacred Harp recordings out of print

Review: "I Belong to This Band" follows the practice of shape-note singing from 1922 through to the present, offering 30 distinct cuts, spanning a mess of geographies, years, and intentions. Shape-note singing, a church-based southern song system based in four notes (sung as fa, sol, la, and mi), was initially designed as an all-inclusive, participatory choral tradition - it's not necessary to know how to read music to sing shape notes, most songs are transposed a cappella, and each piece is specifically engineered for swarms of singers, meaning the whole always trumps the parts. Although there are several shape note songbooks, The Sacred Harp is the most celebrated collection (published in 1844, by Benjamin Franklin Wright and Elisha J. King, it contains over 250 songs), and somewhere along the way, it became the movement's lone manifesto and remains tucked under the pillows of dedicated shape-note singers everywhere - appropriately, each track included here was born from The Sacred Harp.

Songlist: The Christian Hope 134, Antioch 277, Christian Soldier 57, Jubilee 144, Save, Lord, Or We Perish 224, Cuba 401, Invocation 131B, The Christian Warfare 179, Concord 313T, Morning 163T, Reverential Anthem 234, The Morning Trumpet 85, New Morning Sun 436, The Child of Grace 77T, Ninety-Fifth 36B, Consecration 448T, Blooming Youth 176B, Marlborough 228, North Port 324, Farewell Anthem 260, The Good Old Way 213T, Weeping Mary 408, Ninety-Fifth 36B, Present Joys 318, Corinth 32T, White 288, Coronation 63, Sabbath Morning 283, Whitestown 211, Traveling Pilgrim 278B

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2346c | 1 CD | $14.95

Various Artists : Religion Is A Fortune

Review: An important collection of original recordings of some of the earliest Sacred Harp singing groups. Extensive liner notes makes this compilation a must have for people intested in the Shape Note tradition.

Songlist: Hallelujah (Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers), Long Sought Home (Allison's Sacred Harp Singers), Long Sought Home (Allison's Sacred Harp Singers), Rocky Road (Alabama Sacerd Harp Singers), Calvary (Dye's Sacred Harp Singers), I'm on My Journey Home (Denson's Scare Harp Singers), Happy Land (Allison's Sacred Harp Singers), Relgion Is a Fortune (Alabama Sacred Harp Singers), Happy on the Way (Fa-So-La Singers), Land of Beulah (Dye's Sacred Harp Singers), Pleyel's Hymn (Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers), Journey Home (Allison's Sacred Harp Singers), Edom (Okeh Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers), Relgion Is a Fortune (Wells, Lee Sacred Harp Singers), Not Made With Hands - 2:39 (Allison's Sacred Harp Singers), Odem (Roswell Sacred Harp Singers), Ragan (Denson-Parris Sacred Harp Singers), Ninety-Fifth (Okeh Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers), Promised Land (Prioneer Sacred Harp Singers)

More details3032c | 1 CD | $15.98 | A Cappella |

Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers : Desire for Piety

Review: An invaluable document of a musical tradition stretching back to the Civil War that is on the verge of disappearing forever, Desire for Piety is a rare example of black Sacred Harp singing from rural southeast Alabama. The songs are from the B.F. White Sacred Harp, the hymn book primarily used by the seven million shape-note singers in this country. Liner notes by Henry Willett, an acknowledged authority on shape-note singing.

Songlist: The Happy Sailor, Blooming Youth, Weeping Pilgrim, There We Our Jesus Shall Adore, Bound for Canaan, Cuba, Firm Foundation, Florida, Desire for Piety, Ragan, Struggle On, Ninety-fifth Psalm, Fallen by the Way, Happy Home, Coronation, The Dying Boy, The Father's Boundless Love, The Christian's Flight, Give Me Just A Little More Time

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2836c | 1 CD | $14.95 | A Cappella |

Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers : The Colored Sacred Harp

Review: African American Sacred Harp singing conventions in southeastern Alabama began near the last third of the 19th century. While singing, for the most part, the same repertory of Sacred Harp music as their Anglo American counterparts, a vocal stylistic difference is clearly apparent. During a typical convention singing the participants arrange themselves in a square according to voice part, the basses facing the trebles, and the tenors facing the altos. A song leader stands in the middle of the square leading the singers first through the notes to the songs and then through the lyrics, a practice emanating from the traditional singing school classes, where singers are taught to sing the notes and then the words.

Songlist: Prayer/Come To Jesus Now, Alone, The Signs of The Judgement, Florida Storm, Shout and Sing, Jesus Lives In My Soul, My Friend, Call Upon The Lord, Welcome Address, My Mother's Gone, Rejoice and Sing, Prosperity, Am I a Soldier of The Cross, It Is Finished

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2837c | 1 CD | $17.95 | A Cappella |

Word Of Mouth Chorus : Rivers of Delight

Review: Shape-note music refers to a particular system of notation and part singing popularized in the nineteenth century through a series of songbooks, of which the "Sacred Harp," compiled in 1844, was one. Typically sung in four parts, these spirited folk-derived tunes are rough-hewn, having emerged from the English Colonies that were their soil; their subject matter, the sacred and the secular. These songs were sung by and for the people, though displaying a fine musical sensibility; the "Word of Mouth Chorus" (from Plainfield, Vermont) is in top form, singing "Greenwich," "The Better Land," "Northfield" and eighteen others.

Songlist: American Folk Hymns from the Sacred HarpTradition, Northfield, Soar Away, Cowper, Evening Shade, Daniel Read, Elder Edmund Dumas, Eternal Day, Sweet Prospect, North Port, Greenwich, Wondrous Love, Peace and Joy, Parting Friends, Weeping Mary, Alabama, Milford, New Jerusalem, The Better Land, attr. Elkanah Kelsey Dare, attr. Elkanah Kelsey Dare,

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9725c | 1 CD | $14.98 |

Various Arrangers : The Sacred Harp

Review: This hardbound treasure is a goldmine of hundreds of historic hymns rendered in the traditional shape note style. Essentially, shape notes consist of four shapes - triangle, square, oval and diamond - which correspond with a syllable: fa, sol, la and mi. These shapes and syllables are then associated with notes on a scale. This system, and the Shape Note singing books such as the Sacred Harp (which was originally published in 1844), were ubiquitous, particularly in the South, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Music was an integral part of the camp meetings and revivals of the period, and the shape note method was intended to simplify the reading of music, so that anyone so moved could participate. The thematic content is almost exclusively religious in nature, reflecting the predominant attitude of the composers, as well as the publishers, of the time. The polyphony of the shape note is characterized by lively chordal movement, and dyadic harmony based on fourths and fifths, often in parallel. Contemporary renditions, sung in the shape note style, can be heard on the soundtrack to the Civil War film, "Cold Mountain." The book also includes an introductory section entitled the "Rudiments of Music," a thorough primer in the fundamentals of theory. Updated in 1991 with the addition of 62 songs, "The Sacred Harp" will keep a group of part-singers entertained for years. Can also be used by those accustomed to conventional notation.

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7078b | Songbook | $24.98 | SATB | A Cappella |

Don Jamison : Far Heaven: Songs and Tunes for Chorus and Small Groups

Review: Intended as a 'community songbook, with music written for several connected circles of singers in Vermont' (including Village Harmony). The book, which is accompanied by a disc with recordings of all of the compositions, includes twenty-five of Don Jamison's beloved and imaginative compositions. Jamison has divided his highly-singable and fascinating choral pieces into three sections: shape-note-inspired tunes, three-part songs, and four- and five-part songs. The title of both the book and the first song comes from Isaac Watts' text: 'Far in the heavens my God retires:/ My God, the mark of my desires,/ And hides his lovely face.' Many of the songs, the composer writes in his introduction, 'have to do with a search for God - or the spiritual world more broadly - and a right relationship with nature and the cosmos. Sometimes when I listen to music, and, more often, when I make music, the world seems to reveal a little more of what it really is - and relationships feel clear and direct, and "heaven" not so far away at all'

Songlist: Shape Note Inspired Tunes, Far Heaven, Cabin Hill, Owen Sound, North Street, Kingdom, Sweet Brother Weed, Mission Farm, Jackson Heights, Three-Part Songs, Sometimes, Night Song, Spring and Fall, Stars, Ubiquity, How Long?, Autumn Carol, Three Restless Songs, Four and Five-Part Songs, Inversnaid, Pied Beauty, Measure of the Stars, Mother Root, Falling, Notes on The Music

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7893b | Songbook & 1 CD | $24.95 | SATB | A Cappella |