The Sacred Harp continues a 200-year-old American tradition of singing non-denominational hymns and gospel songs, written with shaped note heads.
The music has a distinctive open and modal sound, and the singing is exuberant, rhythmic, and full of feeling. Visitors are encouraged to join in the singing, or they are welcome to just listen.
“Shape-note” refers to a musical notation system designed to make reading music easy. Notes with note-heads of different shapes represent the four corresponding syllables: fa, sol, la, and mi. We sing each tune by first reading through the “shapes” and then adding the words. As part of this 200 year old tradition of singing, singers sit in a hollow square facing each other, taking turns leading songs. Each section of the square represents one of 4 vocal parts: treble (like soprano), tenor, alto, and bass. Anyone can sing any part in whatever octave suits their voice. The singing is democratic in nature and the songs are all sung in 3 or 4 parts (5-6 parts when males sing treble and females sing tenor in octaves) without instruments.
All are welcome to participate regardless of previous musical experience or religious background. We have no political, institutional or religious affiliation. Though Sacred Harp Singing is not affiliated with any denomination, it is a deeply spiritual experience for all involved, and functions as a religious observance for many singers.