Various Artists

Sacred Harp and Shape Note Singing: 1922-1950s

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Introduced in the 1800s, shape note singing was a popular form of choral music in the American South. In the shape note style, musical notes are printed using special shapes that help the reader identify them on the musical scale. Eschewing the more complex figures of standard musical notation, shape note singing was accessible and easily learned, and the resulting group was both primitive and powerful. The Sacred Harp, published in 1844 by Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King, was a gospel tune book printed in shape notes that spawned an entire style that became known as Sacred Harp singing. This exhaustive four-disc collection from British jazz and blues label JSP features three decades' worth of wonderful field recordings from a variety of different choirs and vocal groups singing in the shape note and Sacred Harp tradition. The 81 tracks featured here are from the private collection of noted musicologist Chris King beginning in 1922 and spanning into the mid-'50s.

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