Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sacred Harp

When something stirs up my emotions, I have to share it.  Maybe you have never heard of Sacred Harp music.  I know I hadn't until I saw one my favorite movies, Cold Mountain.  Those of you who know me, know I have a little celebrity-crush on Jude Law, but please believe me--the movie is fantastic on its own and is only enhanced by his prescence! LOL.  One of my favorite scenes is in the church when the townspeople are singing and doing this thing with their hands.  I was like, "What the?" The music was so unique, beautiful and haunting at the same time.  I wanted to learn more.  Here, have a quick listen.....

 Apparently, Sacred Harp (also known as Shape Note music), originated in the colonies and then migrated south, where it took root, especially in the Appalachian areas.  The "hand chopping" action is used to keep time.  Because there are no instruments accompanying the singers, the names of the notes are sung, i.e. "Fa" "La" "So", etc.  This was so untrained musicians could still sing, reading the "shapes" of the notes rather than musical notation.


When there are lyrics, the words are sung, and what words they are!  They are very old-school primitive hymns, which I normally don't find very meaningful, considering I've grown up in a pretty contemporary praise and worship-style church my whole life.  But there is something raw and real in this music.  The emotion echoes around in the old wooden churches.  No organ, no microphones, just voices.  I can't listen to it without tearing up.  You can learn more about Sacred Harp here.

There are a few tracks on the Cold Mountain soundtrack that are in this music style, but the rest of the Appalachian-inspired songs are amazing as well.  Jack White's "Wayfaring Stranger" will make you weep.  I was so obsessed with this book, the movie, the music, that I designed a Cold Mountain quilt back a few years ago.  I made a square for Inman, Ada, Ruby, Sara, and the Musicians, etc.

I was going to embroider the lyrics to "I'm Going Home" along the borders.  And then, in my dream, I would present the quilt to Jude Law and he would love me.  Ha ha ha ha....That poor quilt is still in my UFO (Un Finished Objects) box, but now I'm getting inspired to pick it up again!  Wow, I truly do have a "all-or-nothing" obsessive personality.  I need counseling....

So, you may want to incorporate a little mini-lesson on Sacred Harp when you teach about the Colonial Times or the Civil War-era.  There are many singing groups that perform throughout the United States.  I checked and sadly, there are none in Florida.  But to see it performed in North Carolina, near the real town of Cold Mountain, in the winter time.....now that would be worth the trip!  Better get that quilt finished.....



2 comments:

Kristenph said...

Very interesting. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, so I had heard of shape notes before, but I didn't know the tradition was continuing. I just finished reading a book about some of my ancestors and it also mentioned harp singing in it. It seems like right after the first time I hear a term, I hear it again.

My So Called Homeschool Life said...

New follower from the crew. I love hearing shape notes sung. A couple of our favorite gospel groups still sing them sometimes.

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