Yesterday we were in Montgomery, so we stopped by the Alabama Archives Building because they were hosting the annual rotunda sacred harp singing. My Alabama Folkways email said that they were going to sing from four shape note hymnals published in Alabama: Christian Harmony, Colored Sacred Harp, Cooper Revision, and Original Sacred Harp. There’s more about sacred harp at this website.
I knew this was something as a cultural event that we should not pass up. If you’re not already familiar with it, but you got a chance to see the movie Cold Mountain, they featured some shape note singing that was recorded at Liberty Baptist in Henagar (on Sand Mountain, which is known for its music) in the movie. NPR did a story about it back then, here.
The sign outside where the singing was done read, “Throughout the ‘all-day singing and dinner on the ground,’ the singers will take turns selecting songs and and leading them from the middle of the square. You are welcome to take a chair and stay as long as you like. Any of the leaders would be happy for you to join them in the square, where the sound is fullest. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of anyone who is participating. Next to singing itself, a shape-note singer’s favorite activity is introducing the tradition to someone else.”
Ohmystars I am so glad we went to hear them – it was *so* good! It was the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. The recordings I did don’t do them justice – this is the best and longest video I took:
There are more on my YouTube account.