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Shape-Notes on the Jersey Shore. . .

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

This weekend, as part of the Smithsonian’s “New Harmonies / American Roots” exhibit, I was invited to teach Sacred Harp at Convention Hall, right on the beach, in Asbury Park, NJ.

Newspaper article by Linda Griggs <– click on this link to see the article.

The event was right in the midst of boardwalk traffic, and the sky was brilliant and blue. In a town known for Bruce Springsteen, we were adding a new roots-y American texture to an already varied musical locale.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/nyregion/06spotnj.html

Teaching the Sacred Harp

The singing school was taught for experienced and new singers, with a focus on those who had never sung before. By breaking the music down to its fundamental characteristics of Time, Tune, and Accent, we quickly had everyone singing together — not on “auto-pilot” but using the notes and beating time together, to sing!  Many experienced singers thanked me afterward for the approach I took. It is far to easy for a Sacred Harp group to “blow the doors out” and leave beginners feeling like they have been left at the curb!

We had new singers leading simple songs with the whole class singing tenor, to show the idea that Sacred Harp is not only learning to sing these wonderful compositions, but also allows you the experience of directing your music, and establishing your own sense of how a song should go!

I said at one point, “You can sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir a long time before that ask you to direct. Same thing with Hollywood. But here we can get you to direct on your first day!”

Much appreciation to Jill and Timothy and the other brand new singers who got up and led in the square, I hope we’ll see you again at another singing soon.  The session closed with experienced leaders calling songs to show the range of musical styles and repertoire of all these varied leaders.

I thought 222 Ocean was an appropriate choice, and 192 Schentectady was chosen for it’s author’s sake: New Jersey native Nehemiah Schumway. I led this one with Linda Griggs who organized the whole affair.  http://www.lindagriggs.com/

Thanks to all of the singers who help make the event great and to the people who heard the harmonies and stopped to listen as well. Let’s hope this is not the last time that we hear the Sacred Harp sounding on the Jersey Shore. Here are some photos from a new singing friend, Joe Moynihan. . .

Sing on!

Tom Malone

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