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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 1-17 of 17 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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3034 | 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


Gregg Smith Singers : William Duckworth - Southern Harmony

Review: The 17 men and women of the Gregg Smith Singers, directed by Gregg, perform a piece written by New York City composer Wm. Duckworth, who was affected by "shaped note" (helping the congregation learn the tune by making the notes square, round, triangular and diamond-shaped) singing in rural churches. "Southern" is based on an 1854 hymn collection of the same name, and it is a parody in the ancient sense, not humorous, but a rewriting, paraphrase and commentary on the material. There are 20 songs here, divided into four books: "Consolation," "Wondrous Love," "Hebrew Children," "Solemn Thought," "Rock of Ages," "Cheerful," "War Department," Condescension," "Holy Manna," "Bozrah," "The Mouldering Vine," "Mear," "Leander," "Sardina," "Windham," "Distress," "Nashville, "Turtle Dove," "Primrose" and "Social Band." An intriguing choral piece, with orchestral use of voices, that goes off into surprising, theatrical melodic directions.

Songlist: Consolation, Wondrous Love, Hebrew Children, Solemn Thought, Rock of Ages, Cheerful, War Department, Condescension, Holy Manna, Bozrah, The Mouldering Vine, Mear, Leander, Sardina, Windham, Distress, Nashville, Turtle Dove, Primrose, Social Band

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6783 | 1 CD | $15.98 || Shapenote Music


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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6867 | 1 CD | $15.98 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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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8669 | 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


Tudor Choir : An American Christmas - Shapenote Carols from New England and Appalachia

Review: The 17 mixed voices of Seattle's Tudor Choir, founded by Doug Fullington in 1993, have a focused repertoire dedicated to historically informed concerts and recordings with an emphasis on Renaissance, early American and English choral music. While putting together 1996's "The Shapenote Album," the Choir came across "An American Christmas Harp," a shapenote collection, and were inspired to record "An American Christmas. We won't go into defining shapenote, referring you to the 28-page liner notes, but we will say that it's intensely harmonic and spirited, and often includes fugues. 23 songs, some of which we know by other names, "Antioch," for instance, we know as "Joy to the World." Some favorites: "Shiloh," "Sherburne," "Emanuel, For Christmas," "Redemption, S.M.," "Anthem from Luke," "Joys Seven," "Boston, For Christmas," "Bonnie Doon," "Judea," "London," "Raymond" and "Milford." These now obscure songs were once as familiar to rural Americans as "White Christmas." Shapenote is joyous, celebratory music, fun to sing and fun to hear.

Songlist: Shepherd's Star, Shiloh, The Cherry Tree, Antioch, Sherburne, Emanuel for Christmas, Redemption S.M., Anthem for Luke, Joys Seven, Bethlehem C.M, Redemption L.M., Boston for Christmas, Bonnie Doon, Star in the East, Oxford, Judea, New Bethlehem, London, I Saw Three Ships, Raymond, Convoy, Distress, Milford

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6947 | 1 CD | $15.95 || Shapenote Music


Listen to
Weeping Mary

Tudor Choir : The Shapenote Album

Review: Tudor founder Doug Fullington directs the 17-strong Seattle-based mixed choir in a wonderful collection of 18th and 19th century American Shapenote songs, in this their 2nd CD. The composers who wrote and taught Shapenote songs sought ways for the melody to crop up in all of the vocal parts, or at least for each vocal part to have an interesting musical line, as opposed to all the lower parts supporting the sopranos. 24 spirited songs are here, some of the most melodic, upbeat Christian hymns we've heard. It's obviously more fun to sing Shapenote, because the singers are just singing their tails off! "Montgomery," "Sweet Prospect," "China," "Soar away," the joyous "The better land," the welcoming "Weeping Mary," the dynamic "Eternal day," "Heavenly union," "Evening shade," "All is well," "Africa," "Traveling on," the upbeat "Happy land," the glorious fugue "New Jerusalem," "Hallelujah". These are amazing songs, very blue collar, not designed to be sung in cathedrals. One rarely suspects of cathedral choirs that they are having too much fun singing, but we are certain of it here! Extensive liner notes. Recommended!

Songlist: Montgomery, Windham, Sweet prospect, China, Soar Away, The better land, Weeping Mary, White, Mortality, Eternal Day, Heavenly Union, Expression, Evening Shade, Kedron, Love the Lord, Condescension, All is Well, Africa, Traveling on, Happy land, New Jerusalem, Primrose, Peace and joy, Schenectady

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6814 | 1 CD | $15.95 || Shapenote Music


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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9898 | 1 CD | $14.95 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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

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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2346 | 1 CD | $14.95 || Shapenote Music


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)

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3032 | 1 CD | $15.98 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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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2836 | 1 CD | $14.95 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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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2837 | 1 CD | $14.95 | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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 , Morning, , , ,

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9725 | 1 CD | $14.98 || Shapenote Music


Larry Gordon and Anthony Barrand (Editors) : Northern Harmony Book (5th edition)

Review: Plain Tunes, Hymns and Anthems from the New England Singing School Tradition. These tunes have been taught to singers of every age, ability, background and musical taste. They work. There is, perhaps, no other easily accessible choral music that is as much fun to sing. The music is stark, rhythmic, frequently modal, and very distinctive. The latest edition of Northern Harmony is greatly expanded, with 55 new songs, 150 songs in all. Half are by early New England composers from the years 1770-1810, most of them not otherwise available in modern shape-note editions. The other half are by living composers writing in the shape-note style. The book is beautifully and sturdily bound, and all songs have been newly typeset in extremely clear shape-note notation. A marvelous collection for shape-note singers, school and community choirs, and recreational singers of every kind.

Songlist: Introduction, The Tunes, Biographies And Notes Selected Bibliography, Extra Texts For Hymns And Psalms, Index Of Titles, Index Of First Lines, Index Of Composers

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8411 | Songbook | $19.95 | SATB | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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.

Songlist:

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7078 | Songbook | $24.98 | SATB | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


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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7893 | Songbook & 1 CD | $24.95 | SATB | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


Various : Endless Light: Spirituals From A New Generation

Review: Twenty-six songs in three and four parts for equal and mixed voices by composer-members of Gordon's singing group, Village Harmony. An impressive range of musical styles, largely inspired by traditional New England shape-note music, ranging from lively fuging tunes to plaintive melodies with close-moving and often surprising harmonies. Texts from the hymns and psalms of Isaac Watts and his followers, and the poetry of Longfellow, Henry Vaughan, Rupert Brooke and Christina Rossetti, as well as original lyrics by the composers. The companion CD is comprised of recordings from a fabulous one-time collaboration of over fifty singers and instrumentalists from the Village Harmony year group past and present, featuring some of the most exciting voices we've ever sung with. The Endless Light album is characterized by an impressive range of compositional and singing styles, especially the hard-edged vocals of the New England shape-note tradition.

Songlist: Aeolian Harp, Atlantic, Barnet, Big Bay, Big Sky, Chelsea, Craftsbury, Endless Light, Escalante, Empyrean, Hopewell, Interstate, Lawrence, Lewis, Lexington, Lucton, Miller, Mystic, Parting, Ranks of Corn, Remember, Refuge, Resolution, Smear, Utopia, When The Hours of the Day, West Shore, Wyman Road

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7890 | Songbook & 1 CD | $24.95 | SATB | A Cappella || Shapenote Music


William Averitt : Bound Unto Canaan - Three Shape-Note Hymns

Review: The shape-note tradition of singing is uniquely American and are both fascinating and fun to sing. The setting of "Say, Now Ye Loverly Social Band"honors the angularity of the original setting's fourths, sevenths, and ninths. Its square rhythms "walk the way to Canaan's land." "You May Tell Them, Father" - Paired voices sing sprightly stanzas, while the "poor mourning pilgrim" refrain has slow, sweet chords that go straight to the heart. "Ye Souls Who Are Bound unto Canaan" has fast, fluid melodic lines in all voices "join in and help me to sing." All of these arrangements would be interesting additions to your repertoire

Songlist: Say, Now Ye Loverly Social Band, You May Tell Them, Father, Ye Souls Who Are Bound unto Canaan

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8034 | Sheet Music | $4.95 | SSA. | A Cappella || Shapenote Music