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Sacred Harp note singing

Elizabeth Gunto, staff writer

Recently, signs have been popping up around campus for Sacred Harp note singing practice. But what exactly is Sacred Harp note singing? Where does it come from?

The name comes from the book used for the singing, The Sacred Harp. Sacred Harp refers to the human voice. In note singing, notes are printed in designated shapes that help Sacred Harp readers easily read them on the musical scale.
Sacred Harp Note Singers always perform a Capella. They arrange themselves in a square with four sections for four parts: one section for tenor, one section for alto, and so on. All the singers take turns in leading the singing. There is no one designated leader. Even though Scared Harp note singing is traditionally sacred, it usually doesn’t take place in a church. Instead, singers gather in a “singing,” a gathering created especially for note singing.

Traditionally at a Sacred Harp note singers meeting, there is not an audience. Everyone in the set-up participates. However, if some people do not want to sing, they can sit outside the square.

Dr. Milton Crotts, the director of the Warren-Wilson chorale, schedules one or two shape note songs every semester.

“The objective  of the Warren Wilson College Chorale is committed to the performance of a variety of musical styles and the exploration of musical and singing traditions of many cultures,” Crotts said.

Note singing began in eighteenth century England. The singing style became popular in the United States when it came over from Europe. However, as the “better music” movement took over religious music right before the Civil War.

However, the style remained popular in the rural, southern part of America.

In 2006, Matt and Erica Hinton released a documentary called “Awake My Soul: the Story of the Sacred Harp.”

For more information, go to fasola.org. The Chapel choir meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Chapel loft.


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