David Carlton | Indy Week

David Carlton 
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Re: “Shape-note singers gather in Raleigh for Sacred Harp Convention

Nice piece. A couple of exceptions, though:

(1) "Despite the religious bent, shape-note singing is first and foremost a social rather than a worship practice . . . . The point isn't prayer. It's to have fun." Actually, to many traditional singers, it *is* first and foremost worship, and they'll come down on you hard if you treat it with less than the seriousness they think it deserves. That the Sacred Harp community manages to combine the worship-minded and the fun-minded with a minimum of conflict is one of its more remarkable characteristics.

(2) The high part in Sacred Harp isn't the "soprano" part, because many of those who sing it [including me] are guys, and can't sing in that range. It's called the "treble" part.

(3) The shape-note tradition wasn't developed in opposition to "better music"; the so-called "better music" movement of the nineteenth century arose in opposition to that earlier style. It borrowed from the European classical tradition, but it wasn't Bach, which is actually closer to a shape-note "fuging tune" than the mainstream church hymns that came out of the "better music" movement. And "sweet gospel music" came even later.

(4) And if you think that fuging tunes are "easy to sing rounds"--their complexity puts most of what church choirs sing to shame.

David L. Carlton, Nashville, TN

Posted by David Carlton on 03/08/2012 at 5:33 PM

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