Article on the Debut Singing from Original Sacred Harp in the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter

Speaking about the history and design of Original Sacred Harp at the joint session of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music and the Emory singing. Photograph by Mark Karlsberg.
Speaking about the history and design of Original Sacred Harp at the joint session of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music and the Emory singing. Photograph by Mark Karlsberg.

The latest issue of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter includes an article I wrote recounting the debut singing from Original Sacred Harp: Centennial Edition. The singing, held on Valentine’s Day at Emory University’s Cannon Chapel during a joint session of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music and the Emory Sacred Harp Singing, brought together more than one hundred singers and scholars. The event included a talk on the history of the tunebook, an hour or so of singing from the new edition, dinner on the grounds, and singing from The Sacred Harp: 1991 Edition. As I wrote in my report on the singing, “Old Strings on a New Harp,”

the day also gave a number of musicologists their first exposure to Sacred Harp singing, and provided an opportunity to reflect on how singers from generations past articulated the relevance of our tradition to their own times and places as we do so today in a rapidly changing Sacred Harp landscape.

Read “Old Strings on a New Harp” in the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter.

The Georgia Roots Music Festival and the “Georgia Harmonies” Traveling Exhibition

Cover of booklet for "Georgia Harmonies: Celebrating Georgia Roots Music," 2012. Booklet designed by Debby Holcombe. Image courtesy of the Center for Public History, University of West Georgia.
Cover of booklet for “Georgia Harmonies: Celebrating Georgia Roots Music,” 2012. Booklet designed by Debby Holcombe. Image courtesy of the Center for Public History, University of West Georgia.

In June 2012 I wrote for the Southern Spaces Blog about the opening of “Georgia Harmonies,” a two year traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program in collaboration with the Georgia Humanities Council. In the blog post, I describe how “the exhibit focuse[d] on the connections between musical cultures and place.” In addition to a small museum exhibition, “Georgia Harmonies” included a variety of “[e]vents and performances at each of the small towns at which the exhibit stop[ped] featur[ing] musics with historical ties to the town and region, and present-day roots in the area,” including several Sacred Harp singings.1

On Saturday I organized a Sacred Harp singing for the concluding event of the touring exhibition, a day-long “Georgia Roots Music Festival” at the Woodruff Arts Center in downtown Atlanta. After an introduction by Jared Wright of the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia, I taught a brief singing school, which led into an hour-long singing. Thirty-five Sacred Harp singers from across Georgia (with a little help from Tennessee) were joined by over one hundred festival attendees for what turned out to be quite a strong singing.

Micah Roberts leads during the Sacred Harp singing at the Georgia Roots Music Festival, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 18, 2014. Photograph by Sam Culpepper.
Micah Roberts leads during the Sacred Harp singing at the Georgia Roots Music Festival, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 18, 2014. Photograph by Sam Culpepper.
Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock teach a singing school at Long Cane Baptist Church, near LaGrange, Georgia, October 27, 2014.
Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock teach a singing school at Long Cane Baptist Church, near LaGrange, Georgia, October 27, 2014. Photograph by Ann Gray.

In addition to introducing Sacred Harp singing to Georgians across the state, “Georgia Harmonies” events proved engaging to the Sacred Harp singers who participated. As I wrote for the Southern Spaces Blog, the events led white Sacred Harp singers “to meet, share histories, and compare and contrast our musical practices” with participants in the a black shape-note gospel singing style called “note singing.” Exhibition events also brought singers to locations with historical or civic importance, ranging from the Woodruff Arts Center (Atlanta’s premier arts institution) to the Long Cane Baptist Church near LaGrange (which J. L. White identified in 1920 as the site of the first Sacred Harp convention in 1845), where Lauren Bock and I taught a singing school in conjunction with another of the exhibition’s stops.

Notes

  1. Public Sacred Harp singings were held in conjunction with the Calhoun, Perry, Waycross, and LaGrange tour stops. The Bremen stop included a concert featuring West Georgia shape-note singing styles, among them Sacred Harp singing. The LaGrange stop’s singing was preceded by a singing school I co-taught with Lauren Bock.

“Clinton,” “Hamrick,” and “Newton” in the Northern Harmony

Northern Harmony, Fifth Edition
Northern Harmony, Fifth Edition (Plainfield, VT: Northern Harmony Publishing Company, 2012).

Three of my shape-note tunes—“Clinton,” “Hamrick,” and “Newton”—are included in the new Northern Harmony (Plainfield, VT: Northern Harmony Publishing Company, 2012). First published in 1980, this fifth edition of the Northern Harmony includes 150 tunes—half written by members of the “first New England School” (1770–1810), and half by contemporary composers working in the dispersed harmony shape-note idiom. Singers across New England use the Northern Harmony as a supplement to The Sacred Harp at weekly and monthly singings. The songbook has also been used by Sacred Harp singers in the United Kingdom since the mid-1990s. A variety of adult and teen performing ensembles brought together by Vermont world music and shape-note music organization Village Harmony also make regular use of the songs in the Northern Harmony tunebook on concert tours and at singing camps.

I attended all-day singings from the Northern Harmony in Vermont and Massachusetts in 2001 and 2002 shortly after I was first exposed to Sacred Harp music. For several years I sang favorite tunes out of the fourth edition of the songbook at “otherbook” shape-note singings at Aldo Ceresa’s apartment in New York City and at various homes in Cambridge, New York. It’s an honor to be included in this new edition, and to have my songs appear alongside those of teachers of mine such as Neely Bruce, and co-conspirators such as Aldo Ceresa and Lauren Bock.

Copies of the Northern Harmony are available online from Village Harmony.

Camp Fasola Summer Sessions

I’ll be teaching this summer at both the adult- and youth-emphasis sessions of Camp Fasola. My classes this year include sessions on leading (with Judy Caudle and Cassie Allen), composing, the role of the arranging committee in Sacred Harp, and the rudiments of music (I’ll be teaching rudiments at the youth session of camp with Lauren Bock). Camp Fasola—Adult Emphasis will be held June 10–14 in Double Springs, Alabama. Camp Fasola—Youth Emphasis will be held July 2–6 in Anniston, Alabama.