Recently, we asked Tim Eriksen to introduce shape note singing. He will be teaching the tradition at our upcoming Southern Mountain Traditions gathering with Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell in November (limited space still available). Here is his intro:
Soul stirring, rafter rattling "shape note music" is one of America’s deepest community music traditions, and it’s alive and kicking. Shape note’s flagship tunebook "the Sacred Harp" has been in print in the American southland for over 160 years, longer than any book but the Bible.
In this venerable tradition early American gospel hymns meet Scots-Irish ballad melodies, old pop songs, jigs and reels, all heavily dosed with early New England folk harmony and 1800’s frontier abandon. The tradition’s vibrant social singing style and unique notation system make it possible for absolutely anyone to sing, and an experience singing this music is a must for anyone interested in American traditional and old-time music.
Want to learn more? A comprehensive resource is the www.fasola.org website, which is run by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you should definitely check out the Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singers website. Here is a nice NPR feature on a shape note gathering, with audio.