The Shape Note Sing has expanded to Chapel Hill. No prior experience is necessary to participate in the Shape Note Sing – beginners and experienced singers are all welcome. The group sings from two books – The Sacred Harp and The Shenandoah Harmony. Loaner books are available.
In the shape note singing tradtion, singers sing a cappella (without accompaniment) and sit arranged by vocal part in a “hollow square,” facing one another across the square and taking turns at leading. Shape note singing began in Protestant churches in New England in America’s early years, and it survived in the rural South and became recognized as an American art form in the 1960s. Today, local singers still gather three times a month in the Triangle to share the music and fellowship of the Shape Note Sing. The Shape Note Singers meet the second Sunday of each month in Durham, the third Sunday of each month in Chapel Hill, and the fourth Sunday of each month in Raleigh.
Sacred harp singing is another name for this style, referring to vocal cords; early practitioners of this musical style viewed vocal cords as the only instrument necessary. An 1844 songbook is titled Sacred Harp, which gives the music its name and helped spread it by using shapes (triangle, circle, square and diamond) to help singers identify the four notes used in each song.