Sacred Harp Singing

What is Sacred Harp or "Shape Note" singing? Back in Colonial America over 200 years ago, people were taught to read music by shaped noteheads to show the different music intervals. However, it is easily read by anyone trained to read music. Sacred Harp tunes are written in standard notation but uses shapes, hence the name "Shape Note Singing". But it is also known as "Sacred Harp" because the voice is considered the musical instrument since there is no instruments being used. If you have seen the movies "Amazing Grace" or "Cold Mountain" you may have experienced shape note singing in one of the scenes. One type uses 4 shapes to represent the fa, sol, la, mi intervals with repeats for the scale: Fa, Sol, La, Fa, Sol, La, Mi, Fa. These are sung first to get the melody of the tune figured out. Then the words (or poetry) are sung. There are four lines of notes but not in the order you would see in a hymn book. The melody (called the tenor line) is the third line.

You are placed in four sections (treble, alto, tenor, and bass) and you will face each other which forms a hollow square. Usually in a singing the singers take turns picking and leading tunes. However, in a practice or learning session the teacher will be doing that. Singers of all walks of life are welcome regardless of background, experience in shape note singing, or beliefs. The song leader stands in the center of the hollow and usually faces the tenor section beating out the beats of the song. The song is pitched for the comfort of the singers.

If you go to a Sacred Harp singing for the first time, don't be intimidated.
You may want to try the tenor (or lead) line which is the third line down.
But you are free to switch to different sections if you find your voice fits
another part better or you want to try a different part. And never be afraid to ask questions. They are always welcome.

You probably won't have an audience. You will be singing as an end to
itself. There may be some, however, that just want to sit and listen to the
haunting beauty of the 4-part harmony or walk into the hollow to get the full sound. There usually is no applause since we are not singing to an audience.

The Sacred Harp singing in Oklahoma will be at the Old Church Presbyterian Church about 3 miles north of Bennington on Cade Highway. This church is the oldest continual running church in the state of Oklahoma and very historical. It's a great place to have a historical singing! We plan to make it an annual even on the last Saturday of April. This year's date is April 27, 2013. Come sing with us and/or listen and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area.