We’ve had lectures, we’ve had storytelling, we’ve had raving and we’ve had lush ukelele tunes (big thanks to Peter Delaney last time!). So, its about time we had a choir at A Love Supreme. Not so much a choir, but a group of singers who put their souls and collective consciousness into the act of performing with the bare and magnanimous voice. Music in its true primal essence. The Sacred Harp Singers in Cork have been building up a fantastic sense of community and respect amongst their members and peers in the rebel city and indeed nationwide, and we’re so intrigued up here in Limerick, we said we better invite them up to bang out a few hymns and harmonies. By God, they are active; hosting regular performances, annual conventions and trips all over this fair land to celebrate the sense of solidarity experienced through song. Sounds awesome, we’re cool with that.
Come join us Sunday the 25th of March, in Leddins Bar, Limerick. Music/games/food/art/newspapers/jenga/stout/tea/coffee. Admission as always is free, 4pm until 8pm.
Records spun by Peter Curtin, mynameisjOhn and Vicki Langan from turntables that gently weep.
We reckon this one will be very special indeed.
‘What is Sacred Harp Singing’, they cried?
This four-part acappella music dates from the 16th through the 20th centuries, and is characterized by haunting harmonies, traditional modes, raucous songs, serene hymns, fast fugues, and high-energy anthems. The notation is written in shapes that correspond to degrees of the scale, making it easy to sight-sing. This tradition is democratic and egalitarian. We glory in the powerful and joyful experience of singing our hearts out together.
Here’s a great little quote from a yoke called Stylus.
‘Before punk’s will and black gospel’s spiritualism, before the catharsis of power electronics, before the ecstasy of mass participation was realized as an artistic pursuit rather than just a quasi-spiritual coincidence, there was Sacred Harp singing.
Sacred Harp singing was named after The Sacred Harp, the 1844 shape-note hymnal from which most of the style’s music comes. Shape notation was a method designed in the northeast in the late 19th century to make learning to read music easier. It died out up north, but since people pushing Christ generally like to have a good hook, it took off in southern states as a way to disseminate sacred music—not only was it easier, it didn’t require instrumental accompaniment, and Sacred Harp music was generally sung in “gatherings” rather than church. The choir breaks into lines of the four standard groups—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—and then arranges in a large square, with each section facing inward. Participants take turns in the middle, leading the group in song. No call-and-response, no such thing as audience.
“Gospel” might be a misleading term for a new listener. Sacred Harp is void of blue notes and the mysteries of soul—really, of the sensuousness of religious experience. It is often both loud and without vibrato; it is naked, incredibly powerful music. On the songs sung in rounds, it sounds like each new section is trying to sing louder than the last. It’s not an effect, it’s an encouragement; the large-choir recordings on I Belong to the Band swell when it feels like there’s no room, they beat wings against the windows. They almost made me crash my car the other day. The unpolished quality of the voices—what some might call amateur—only accentuates the music’s unbridled enthusiasm and sense of collectivity.’