Shape Note Singing
Peter Ross & Gary Breitbard
Shape note singing (also known as sacred harp singing) dates back to the early days of our nation. Words were taken from biblical sources and 18th century English hymn writers; the melodies and arrangements were created by itinerant singing masters in the northeast who taught them to the enthusiastic but musically illiterate congregations. The music is sung a cappella in 4 voices seated around a "hollow square" with each voice carrying its own melodic line. Singers and non-singers alike are welcome to join in and be carried in the wave of this primitive and powerful music.
Peter Ross originally got hooked on shape note singing when he attended workshops in the 1990s at the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, due partly to the gorgeous harmonies and the inspiring music. He now sings regularly with both the Palo Alto and San Francisco shape note singing groups, and occasionally with the Santa Cruz and Berkeley groups. Also, before traveling, he checks the www.fasola.org website, and has found groups with which to sing in Denver, CO, Madison, WI, Knoxville, TN, and Burlington, VT.