Shape Note Sing


The Shape Note Sing is held the second Sunday of each month at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Durham and the fourth Sunday of each month at the chapel in Mordecai Historic Park in Raleigh (The chapel doesn't have an address, but if you Google 1091 Wake Forest Road, you will find it. There is free parking on both sides of Cedar St., as well as on Mordecai Dr. and Mimosa St.). The Durham sing is from 2-4 p.m. The Raleigh sing runs from 1:50-3:50 p.m. Shape note singing is for everyone - beginners and exeprienced singers are all welcome. Music is available at the session for anyone who doesn't have a book.

Sacred Harp singing is the largest surviving branch of traditional American shape note singing. Singers in this tradition sing without accompaniment and sit arranged by vocal part in a "hollow square," facing one another across the square and taking turns at leading from the middle of the square. The songs are sung loudly, with spirit and enthusiasm, and rich four-part harmonies fill the room. The leader of each song sets the tempo with a simple vertical arm movement, and singers sitting in the square often beat time with the leader.

Songs are sung from a tune book called The Sacred Harp, first published in 1844 and continuously updated since then. It includes more than 500 a cappella hymns, odes, and anthems. While the origins of this music can be traced back to Renaissance England, the singing tradition reached a peak of development in early New England, as itinerant singing masters set words to hymns, ballads, and folk tunes, and taught their songs in singing schools. However, it was in the American South that shape note singing found an enduring home. Today, the South is home to singing conventions, including some that date back more than 100 years.

The Sacred Harp Convention and the monthly sings are free of charge, and pre-registration is not required. Song books will be available to borrow or purchase at the convention. For more information and directions to the event, e-mail Lynda Hambourger or visit the Sacred Harp website.