Sacred Harp singing became popular after the publication of The Sacred Harp in 1844 by Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King. This book started the shape note tradition. Mr. White organized singing schools, where participants were taught to sing using the shapes of the notes.
Most chutch congregations during this time had o piano or other type of music. Learning to sing by the notes enabled people to sing in harmony. There was an instrument called a harp that was used for pitch, and some think this is where the name Sacred Harp originated.
There is not just one leader; all members are free to lead a song of their choosing. Leaders stand in the middle of the square. At one time, women were not allowed to be leaders, but most groups today allow the women to participate as leaders.
Last Saturday, as part of the Festival of Christmas Past, we were treated to some Sacred Harp singing. They always sing the notes first, and then the poetry.
After they finished, the crowd was given hymn books, and we were led in singing some of the traditional hymns by Mr. Jim Whaley.
The audience was made up of people from all over the country, and everyone was singing together. Some of us were not professional singers, but we all made a joyful noise to the Lord.
Herb Clabo was there. He no longer sings, but his son, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter are all part of the choir.