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Sacred Harp Singing School for Beginners

Sacred Harp Atlanta

Singing School for Beginners

Come and learn to sing the shapes — it’s free!

Atlanta-based musicians Lauren Bock and Andy Ditzler will teach a beginners’ school in Sacred Harp singing on Wednesday, 24 April 2019 at The Bakery. The singing school is free and open to the public. Experienced singers and teachers in the Sacred Harp tradition, Bock and Ditzler will present historical information and teach beginning singers how to sing and read music using the music’s distinctive “shape note” system. Beginners and experienced singers are welcome. No prior experience is necessary.

What is Sacred Harp?

Sacred Harp (also known as shape-note or “fa-so-la”) is a participatory communal singing tradition, in existence in the United States since the eighteenth century. The music’s sound is characterized by haunting harmonies, traditional modes, and high energy. The singers sing exuberantly in full voice, making this an excellent environment for newcomers to develop their singing confidence. Everyone is welcome to sing Sacred Harp, with no restrictions on ability or experience. There are no performers, conductors, audience or rehearsals in Sacred Harp singing – we simply meet to sing for pure enjoyment. The music uses four shapes (triangle, oval, rectangle, diamond) and corresponding syllables (fa, sol, la, mi) to represent notes of the scale. This pedagogical tool has been used since around 1800, to make learning music possible for otherwise untrained singers. The term Sacred Harp refers to the human voice and is also the name of the most common book of shape note tunes, first published in Georgia in 1844 and most recently revised in 1991.

While anchored in a traditional practice, Sacred Harp has also been successful in art and avant-garde contexts. Sacred Harp recordings were included by the genius polymath Harry Smith in the 1950s Anthology of American Folk Music on the Folkways label (an inspiration for Greil Marcus’ widely-quoted phrase “the old, weird America”). More recently, Sacred Harp was prominently featured in a project by the artist Suzanne Lacy, as well as a memorable performance at Atlanta’s Flux Night 2012.