Part 1 / 2 Download: MP3
Part 2 / 2 Download: MP3
(S 1576 tapes T81-21, T81-22, T83-82, T83-83, T83-84, T83-85)
This a capella singing tradition takes its name from the 1844 hymn book, The Sacred Harp and represents the largest surviving branch of traditional American Shape Note Singing.
Welcome to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the State Library and Archives of Florida.
America's sacred music has long provided a richly diverse field of study for folklorists. From rustic church hymns, or impassioned gospel to popular songs of faith and praise, sacred music has provided an immense body of song. In this podcast, we present the first of a two-part series on one of those sacred traditions: sacred harp singing.
This a capella singing tradition takes its name from the 1844 hymn book, The Sacred Harp and represents the largest surviving branch of traditional American Shape Note Singing. This style of church music utilized four syllables (fa-sol-la-mi) which were represented by four shapes in later hymnals; the triangle, circle, square and diamond. These shaped notes allowed untrained or illiterate church members to participate in the worship service. Frequently the assembled singers would sing the notes first and then follow with the words as you will hear them do in this podcast. In Sacred Harp singing members sit facing inward in a hollow square. The leader will select the tune and beat time with their hand while standing in the center of the square. Any participant is welcome to lead if they so chose. The tradition proved popular with both Anglo and African American churches, especially in rural areas where it is still practiced.
This month, we feature the Florida-Alabama Progressive Seven Shape-Note Singing Convention held in Crestview, Florida and recorded by folklorists Dwight DeVane and Doris Dyen in 1980. Please return next month as we present more sacred harp music.