Shape Note Singing Workshop Offered

 

March 7, 2019



The Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) is sponsoring a workshop on Shape Note Singing on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. until noon at First United Methodist Church in Brevard. The public and all early American hymn lovers are invited to attend. The event is free.

Have you ever looked at an old hymnal and wondered why note heads of each musical note were different shapes? (Triangle, diamond, squares). Come find out and sing some good old American hymns along the way. A significant part of America’s musical heritage that originated in the 19th century are the popular shape note tunebooks that were an outgrowth of “singing schools.” These collections used different shapes for each note of the musical scale.

In 1801, William Little and William Small compiled what is considered the first shape note collection, “The Easy Instructor.” Rather than using conventional notation, the two men devised a system in which the four syllables – fa, sol, la, mi – were each notated with a different note-head shape. This method of music reading became quite popular and resulted in the publication of many shape note collections.


Among the most famous of these are Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp. Later a seven-shape system was devised which used a different shape note head for the seven notes of the musical scale. These 19th century collections helped preserve many tunes that are still well-known today, including “Amazing Grace” and “Wondrous Love.”

Dan Huger of Asheville will present the program about shape note singing — some background, and history, plus lead some singing. Huger will share some of the history of the shape note system and lead a brief training session in reading shape notes. He will then lead those gathered in the singing of some selections from “The Christian Harmony,” a popular collection used in Western North Carolina.

Founded in 2013, the Blue Ridge AGO Chapter is a local chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Their mission is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. To achieve this, they encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music; inspire, educate, and offer certification for organists and choral conductors; provide networking, fellowship, and mutual support; nurture future generations of organists; promote the organ in its historic and evolving roles; and engage wider audiences with organ and choral music.


Timothy Shepard, director of music at Brevard First UMC, is the dean of the chapter. For more information about the Blue Ridge Chapter AGO, visit http://www.BlueRidgeAGO.org.

The church is located at 325 N. Broad St. in Brevard, across the street from Brevard College. Parking is available along Methodist Drive and in the church’s parking lot on Caldwell Street behind Pad Thai. Participants are asked not to park in the College Plaza parking lot.

 
 

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