Sacred Harp Sing

This past Saturday, [Barry->] and his wife Catherine came up to San Marcos for a visit with us and to attend a Sacred Harp sing together. The Sacred Harp is an old four-part songbook that uses shape notes, a system whereby the shape of the note head reflects its position in the song’s scale. It is purportedly pretty useful for teaching singing, though Barry and I, both used to thinking in terms of pitch already, found them a terrific distraction!

We had a great time at the sing. Neither of us had done one before, though Barry has a photocopy of the first edition of the songbook, so was at least passingly familiar with the material. The sound of the thing is remarkable — a strident tone that has a lot in common with that of the bagpipe. It reminded me of the choral bits in Ennio Morricone’s masterful soundtrack to The Mission.

I took the liberty of whipping out my camera and recording some of the audio as we sang. Here are three of the recordings, cleaned up just a little bit, for your listening pleasure (also in other formats at