Brighton Life

Sing Songs from the South

Shape Note Singing at West Hill Hall

Shape Note Singing at West Hill Hall

There’s a hollering happening at West Hill Hall every second Friday of the month: the Brighton shape note singers meet to sing from the Sacred Harp.

Shape note singing is four-part a capella social singing. The tradition has roots in 17th century England, but really took off in the Deep South of the USA in the 19th century.

We sing from the Sacred Harp book, a collection of old time hymns originally published in 1844. With songs ranging from familiar folk tunes to foot-stomping fugues, it’s supplied music for the Carter family, Emmylou Harris, Sufjan Stephens and film soundtracks including Cold Mountain and .

There’s even a Sussex connection: Lewes folk singer Shirley Collins and Alan Lomax collected Sacred Harp field recordings in the Deep South at the peak of the English folk revival.

You’re welcome to come and sing with us whether you think you can hold a tune or read music or not, and whatever you believe in. The shaped notation is designed to aid sight-reading and although the Sacred Harp is a hymn book, the singers are of any faith and none.
We’re an informal group of all ages and backgrounds and there’s no need to commit. Pop along for ten minutes or two hours. We don’t rehearse and rarely perform; we just sing for ourselves and for each other, more akin to a folk session than a choir practice.

If you’re curious about how shape note singing sounds, tune into brightonshapenote.bandcamp.com

When: every second Friday of the month, 7.45pm-9.45pm
Where: West Hill Hall, Compton Avenue, Brighton BN1 3PS
More info: brightonshapenote.weebly.com

Catherine Roberts

Categories: Brighton Life, Features

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