Reading list

Watching Sacred Harp videos

My work life has been pretty time-consuming, so I haven’t had much time to sing Sacred Harp in the past few months. (Oh, and there was that other group that Hannah-from-the-altos and I sang with, but that’s a story for another post.) In any case, I’ve been getting my Sacred Harp fix in other ways: singing by myself, giving a presentation on Sacred Harp to a church group, and — watching Sacred Harp videos.

Yep, watching videos. Watching lots of Sacred Harp videos. After all this video-watching, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

(1) The best collection of Sacred Harp videos is not on Youtube — it’s on Vimeo. Go to where you’ll find “Sacred Harp Memories” has uploaded incredible vintage footage dating back to the 1970s.

If you want to show your friends some real Sacred Harp singing, this is what you should be showing them.


(2) The Cork, Ireland Sacred Harp group has uploaded a huge amount of video from their conventions and other singings. The Cork singers have a sweet and flowing style, and I admit to liking a sharper, more rhythmically defined style of singing. Nevertheless, I really appreciate the care that goes into making the videos: excellent audio quality; good mic placement (so all four parts are balanced); camera mounted on a tripod with little or no herky-jerky camera movement; simple but effective editing and titles. I wish everyone who made Sacred Harp videos (including me) produced videos of this high quality.

(3) Having watched videos from many different regions, I’ve determined that there are one or two places where I’ve not yet sung but would really like to sing. The Lookout Mountain Convention, for one. Bremen, Germany, for another, even though I know I’ll never get there.

Then I found a whole cache of videos from the 2013 Kalamazoo, Michigan, singing. Not only was it fun to see some West Coast singers in these videos (Linda, Clarissa, Jeff), and some other people I know or recognize (Will, Bess, several others); not only are there several men wearing ties (including at least one bow tie); but I like the way these people sing — slower than us Bay area singers but with great power, with enthusiasm that bursts through at all the right places. And while the production qualities of these videos are not such that you’d show them to your friends who are asking you about Sacred Harp, they are exactly the kind of videos we Sacred Harp singers want to see — because the camera pans across all the singers, and from several different vantage points, so you can see exactly who was there.

Here’s one of the Kalamazoo singing videos to get you started: