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Sacred Harp at the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival

A telegraphic account based on my notes:

Twenty singers showed up to perform at the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival. I know, I know, Sacred Harp singing isn’t a performance tradition, but once in a while we’re asked to perform, and this was one of those occasions.

Due to some behind-the-scene complications (having to do with other performances at this concert), there was no warm-up room available for us. But Sacred Harp singers can sing anywhere, so we warmed up by singing a dozen or so songs in the lobby of the concert hall, much to the delight of several early-arriving concert-goers.

We tried to make this performance as much like a singing as possible. Susan Fetcho arranged us in a modified hollow square: trebles in a line stage right, altos in a line stage left, with basses and tenors forming a line facing the audience — something like this:

Sacred Harp singers on stage

The “X” marks where the leaders stood, with their backs to the audience. This arrangement allowed us singers to hear each other, allowed the leaders to bring in the parts if they chose to do so, and projected the singing out towards the audience.

We had an “arranging committee” who called out the names of the leaders, just as at a convention. I even took minutes, which follow:


This special singing was held at the Music Recital Hall, University of California at Santa Cruz. The business meeting was held prior to the singing, and the following officers were elected or appointed to serve: Shelley Phillips and Janet Herman, co-chairpersons; Janet Herman, treasurer; Dan Harper, secretary.
Leaders: Ed Rice 178; Susan Fetcho 142; Terry Moore 86; David Fetcho 344; Shelly Phillips 183; Janet Herman 228.
The secretary recorded 20 singers present, from the Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz local singings. The treasurer reported that the $400 honorarium will be devoted to buying new loaner books.
Co-chairpersons: Shelley Phillips and Janet Herman–Secretary: Dan Harper


To remain true to our tradition, we did NOT take a bow when we finished singing — we just walked off stage. This felt to me like the applause was directed at the tradition, not at the singers who happened to be there passing on the tradition at this particular singing.

The response from people in the audience was positive. From comments I heard, audience members especially liked the fuguing tunes. Two or three people came up to us after the concert and wanted to know how they could join in singing with us — this, I feel, made up for the awkwardness of singing Sacred Harp in a concert setting!