Welcome

UK Sacred Harp Convention 2011

Welcome to the new web presence for Sacred Harp singing in London!

What is Sacred Harp singing? An American sacred folk choral tradition, sung a cappella in four parts. A community music “happening”, a phenomenon that is gradually taking hold in many places in Europe. Something you, too, can learn to do, even if you’ve never sung before.

At long last, we now have four evening singings a month in London, in different locations (Hampstead, Bloomsbury and Bethnal Green). All have marvellous acoustics. Listen to a recording from our Third Monday singing in Bloomsbury (15 Oct 2012) here.

You will find all of the information regarding locations, transport, times and dates on these pages.

 

 

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All-Day singing in Lewes on Saturday, 5 July!

Come to sunny (hopefully) Sussex-by-the-Sea for the Lewes Sacred Harp Singing Day on Saturday, 5th July from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm at South Malling Parish Church, Church Lane, Lewes BN7 2JA. Parking is available in the lane next to the church.
Dinner on the grounds. Please bring food to share.

Lifts available from Lewes railway station, please contact Rachel & Nick by 5 pm on Friday 4th July if you need collecting.
Contact details on http://www.ukshapenote.org.uk/calendar/calendar.html

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Recordings from recent singings

We recently began singing at the Quaker Meeting House in Wandsworth, where one of us is a member, and have discovered that the acoustics there are very special. Here are some tracks from a recent singing (April 2014) at the Wandsworth Quaker Meeting House:

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Recordings on our new Bandcamp page!

They’re HERE. Arthur’s recordings!

Or rather IT’S here: The new Bandcamp page of London Sacred Harp, with fantastic recordings of our All-Day Sacred Harp Singing on 26 October and Europe and the UK’s first All-Day Christian Harmony singing on 27 October 2013. We all owe a big thank you to Arthur for his stellar sound engineering work!

So… get out your good earphones…

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New “Further Reading” page

Be sure to check out the newly added “Further Reading” page on the site – it contains invaluable suggestions by LSH singer and avid amateur SH historian Rebecca Over.

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Bloomsbury singing, Christmas edition (17 Dec 2012)

This evening we had another great crowd at the Bloomsbury singing – nearly 50 people. The sound was again beautiful. This song comes from the Christian Harmony. It is a perfect advertisement for the austere beauty of shapenote music.

Hark the Glad Sound, the Saviour Comes (Tune: Derrick, from the Christian Harmony)

And here is another Christmas song – Rapturous Scene  (from the Christian Harmony)

“Wrapped in the silence of the night lay all the eastern world,

when bursting glorious heavenly light the wondrous scene unfurled.

Hark how cherubic armies shout, and glory leads the song,

goodwill and peace are heard throughout th’harmonious heavenly throng.

 

With songs and honours sounding loud, address the Lord on high.

Over the heav’ns he spreads his clouds and waters veil the sky.

He sends his showers of blessings down to cheer the plains below;

he makes the grass the mountains crown, and corn in valleys grow.

 

His steady counsels change the face of each declining year.

He bids the sun cut short his race, and wintry days appear.

On us his providence has shone with gentle smiling rays,

o, may our lips and lives make known his goodness and his praise.

 

 

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Radio 4 documentary “Songs of the Sacred Harp” – featuring (inter alia) London Sacred Harp!

This 30-minute documentary will air on Monday, 3 December at 4 pm on BBC Radio 4.

Cerys Matthews visits Alabama to uncover a sacred choral tradition. Widely practiced before the American Civil War, Sacred Harp singing is currently experiencing a global resurgence.

Once called ‘white spiritual’, this haunting unaccompanied choral tradition survived in the small rural Baptist churches of the American Deep South. Very different to bluegrass and to African American Gospel music, Sacred Harp preserved Anglo-Celtic practices that were subsequently lost in the UK.

Today, this music is spreading from the Deep South around the US and is even developing a following in the UK. Cerys travels to an all-day singing convention in Alabama to find out why the music is not just surviving but flourishing. In an age when church attendance is dropping fast, what is attracting people all over the US and the UK to sing archaic hymns?

Also called ‘shape note singing’, the music is based around the Sacred Harp hymn book compiled in Georgia in 1844. The pages show different shapes above the words to indicate the notes, enabling songs to be sung on sight. Gatherings are arranged in a hollow square with the self-selected leader entering the middle to call out the number of their chosen song. No applause or audience is allowed. Far removed from ‘happy clappy’, they are often austere hymns with themes of death and the pain of everyday existence.

Contributors include Hugh McGraw, Jesse Karlsberg, Warren Steele, Reba Del Windom, Henry Johnson, Michael Walker, Emma Rose Brown and Sam Carter.

For information on Sacred Harp singing around the UK:

http://www.ukshapenote.org.uk/

http://londonsacredharp.org/

Produced by Joby Waldman

A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 4.

 

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