I wound up chatting with another newcomer this evening, and as usual I asked how he got interested in Sacred Harp singing. He told me he heard about it through iON, a sort of New-Age-y radio character, who said it has healing properties. (You can listen to what iON says about fasola singing by clicking on the mp3 file on the “Information Farm” blog.) He said, “That may sound a little strange….” “No,” I said, “I’m a minister, I do a lot with the healing properties of music.” Later, I made sure to ask him to come stand in the middle of hollow square when I led a song later that evening. He seemed to enjoy the experience.
It does seem to me that there can be a healing quality to the sound you hear in the middle of the hollow square; perhaps that is the unidentified something that some people find compelling about standing there and leading a lesson. Certainly, healing is mentioned in some of the songs in The Sacred Harp (e.g., 56b Villulia); and healing is definitely a feature of the Christian tradition, which is central to the spirituality of traditional Sacred Harp singing. But in the northern revival singings I have attended, I have rarely heard it articulated explicitly: that Sacred Harp singing might have healing properties.