Who are We?
We are a non-professional, non-choir group of people who sing non-instrumental Sacred Music that has its roots in this country starting in 1801.
Why is it called Sacred Harp, when there is no harp instrument?
Sacred Harp is the name of the tune book that we use. We also use other tune books such as Southern Harmony and B.F White Sacred Harp (Cooper edition). Sacred Harp is a reference to the human voice, which when sung in harmony, sounds like a harp. By tradition we sing the notes of the tune first, then we sing the words
How can you sing the notes first?
To help people to sing hymns who could not read music, two men in 1801 came up with a system using shapes for the individual notes that would go up a musical scale.
With the use of the shapes written in the tune books, a person could look at the individual shapes and sing the notes.
Above is the song Amazing Grace. In the tune books this song is referred to as New Britian, which is the name of the tune or music of the song. There are four musical lines in the song which are sung by individual harmony sections. The top line is the Treble section, the high part of the tune. The second line is the Alto section. The third line down is the Tenor line or melody of the song. Last is the Bass section.
Wait a minute! Isn't there suppose to be a Do, Re and Ti?
Good observation! Two shape note systems started at different times. The Fa, So, La and Mi system or 4 shapes started first. The Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, and Ti system or 7 shapes started later. Sacred Harp uses the 4 shape system or English system. I find this system is easier to use because you only have to worry about 4 shapes compared to 7.
If you are not a choir, how do you sing in your group?
We sing not for an audience, but for one another and for God. We sing as Loud as we can, each section facing into each other in a hollow square.
We are not perfect! If you are looking for a group that sings for an audience or wants perfect harmony, we may not be your cup of tea. However, with singers giving all they have, it can be a very spiritual experience.