This has been a particularly songful couple of weeks for us--though not all Sacred Harp, specifically. It's great to get a little jolt every once in awhile to remind us why we're alive. Coming from Baltimore where I sang with a strong group of wonderful people virtually every Thursday for nearly ten years, it has been kind of a slap in the face to sing so infrequently up here in New Hampshire. Hey, it's the way life worked out for us. We've gained a lot in the move, but we also lost a lot.
A weekly singing can seem like a lot to undertake, but in the long run, I think it's actually a much better way to sing. A whole month between singing? How do you grab new singers and keep them? How do you maintain the motivation to make time to sing on your own? Even those singers who are dedicated and really want to come only get twelve opportunities in a year. People are busy! What if you miss a couple in a row?
It's harder work to sing only once a month than it is to do it every week. So... stay tuned for that. We will start a more frequent singing soon... though it'll most likely be in the Conway/Bartlett area to reach more people (and make life easier for us).
Have no fear! We'll still have our monthly third Saturday singings in Berlin, too!Next one is Saturday, June 20th
WREN Makers Space
117 Main Street - Berlin, NH
Anyway... back to the songfulness of late:
Last week we went to a great workshop led by our singing pal, Tim Eriksen in Tamworth. There were a lot of enthusiastic singers there--many of whom were at least familiar with Sacred Harp music and had sung it in some form or another before. I didn't get the impression that these folks were very familiar with the actual tradition of singing in the hollow square, but it was cool to know that there are people around who have sung some of the music in a different context.
Thankfully, we remembered to bring fliers and we hope to snag some of these folks for our monthly singing (even though it is a long haul from Tamworth) and certainly for our new weekly sing once that begins.
I've been to about a million singing schools that Tim has taught and I have NEVER left one without learning something new. And keep in mind, I've been singing this music consistently and passionately for 18 years of my damn life. There's just SO much to learn. And Tim is really a wealth of knowledge--about the history, the books, and the practice--and so much fun to sing with.
So we sang some Sacred Harp songs and we did some lining-out songs and a couple of ballads. It was great.
The next night we hauled ass back to Tamworth again for Tim's concert with the Trio de Pumpkintown. So fun. This was the first time I'd seen Zoe Darrow perform with Tim and Peter, and that was a real treat. That chick is a talented fiddler. Really talented. And a great singer, too.
So, through attending these two events we found that there really are a lot of folks who love our kind of music and who love to sing and who don't live that far away (at least not now that we moved south of the Notch anyway)... We were invited to join a group of them who have a weekly "potluck singing." I went last night and we sang a lot of music I am familiar with from my Village Harmony days, including some shape-note music, Georgian and South African songs, and some rounds. It was funny--I felt like I was going through the greatest hits of Village Harmony. It's kind of a cross between singing for fun and a rehearsal, I guess, though this was my first time, so it's hard to tell. We just jumped right into many of the songs. For others, we went over the parts a time or two. It wasn't what I'm used to, but the singers are fun and enthusiastic, warm, welcoming, and tuneful, so what else can you ask for?
At Sacred Harp singings, there's a particular structure. You call your song number. Everybody sings through on the shapes and then on the words and then you move on to the next song. In our case in our Berlin monthly singing, we like to stop and go over parts here and there because the music is new to a lot of folks. We are happy to do that because we're trying to grow and build our singing. BUT, the goal--and what will happen at a more established singing--is what I just described. You sing the shapes, always. They help you to learn and they help you to catch up. Then you sing the words and then you move on. There's no conductor, though there is a leader keeping time and setting the tone.
We've been singing and playing a little bit in our house, too--in large part just to figure out which rooms sound the best! You'd think it would have been the first thing we did... to run around and sing a few measures in each of the rooms. We did that a little when the house was still empty, but now that it's filling up with our tools and our actual things, the sound is changing so we have to revisit it all.
Making music together is pretty much the best thing ever.