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As 2001 unfolds, annual Sacred Harp Sing takes note of the past

JACKSON, Tenn.Jan. 18, 2001 – Union University's Department of Music will once again host its annual Sacred Harp Singing, Saturday, Feb. 10 from 9:30 - 2:30 p.m. in the Instrumental Rehearsal Room of Jennings Hall on Union's campus.

According to Michael Penny, director of the event and associate professor of music at Union, Sacred Harp singing, or shapenote singing, originated in England in the 18th century to teach untrained churchgoers how to sing hymns. Penny said that one of the reasons that groups for this type of singing still exist is that participation is emphasized rather than performance.

"It's from these types of singings that we get the "all day singing and dinner on the grounds" concept of early American Christian history," said Penny. No rehearsal is necessary, the songs are sung a cappella (without music) and everyone participating is welcome to lead. Only four shapes are used in the Sacred Harp hymnal - the triangle, diamond, square and the circle, and each is used to denote a pitch.

According to Penny, many hymnbooks using shaped notes are still published today, with more than 200 Harp Sing groups in Tennessee alone, in addition to groups located in northern Alabama and northern Mississippi.

"Harp Singing is a wonderful pass-time for those who enjoy Southern Gospel and early American history," noted Penny. "It appeals to a broad range of people."

Those wishing to participate are asked to bring a potluck lunch and an offering will be taken, both standard procedures at an old-fashioned Harp Sing. The hymnal that will be used is the 1991 revision. Union will provide some hymnals for use and sale.

According to Penny, no prior music knowledge is necessary and a quick overview of shapenote singing will be given before the singing for the novice. For more information, contact Penny at (901) 661-5230.

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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