Friday, June 30, 2017

Sacred Harp Singing with Dinner on the Ground

Sacred Harp singing is a southern U.S. style dating back to at least the mid nineteenth century. The hymnbook called The Sacred Harp was first published in 1844, and its descendants and variants are still used by Sacred Harp singers today.  The book uses shaped noteheads, each of which corresponds to a different pitch. Traditionally, the first verse of each hymn is sung with solfege syllables (fa, sol, la, etc.) before the words are sung.

This excellent album was released around 1970 by the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, the Georgia firm that publishes the "official" Sacred Harp hymnbook. The singers are anonymous, but the recording was made in Birmingham, so I would guess that the singers were chosen from Alabama and the surrounding states. The performances are accomplished, and not as raw as many less formal field recordings of the style. As I write this, there are a couple of copies of this hard-to-find record on Amazon for around 150 bucks. I paid about 1% of that for my near-mint copy at a flea market.

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