Singing at home


Some Stanford University undergraduates made a brief documentary on the Bay Area Sacred Harp singing community. The students were in an ethnomusicology class, and their goal was to document a local musical community. Given their time constraints, I think they give a pretty good sense of how music and community are woven together in Sacred Harp.

Screen grab from the video: the Palo Alto local singing in the children’s art room at the UU Church.

No one is identified in the video, but this is who you’ll hear from, in order of appearance: Pat Coghlan, tenor, Gridley, Calif.; Lena Strayhorn, alto, San Francisco; Jeannette Ralston, treble, Half Moon Bay; Terry Moore, sings any part, Palo Alto. (Jeannette is the most senior singer who was interviewed; she has been singing Sacred Harp in the Bay Area since the early 1970s.)

The local singings shown are Berkeley (in the church with pews); Palo Alto (in the children’s art room); and San Francisco (in the living room). You’ll hear the Palo Alto singers on Nehemiah Shumway’s Ballstown (begins 0:05; cont. 0:27) and William Billings’s Easter Anthem (begins 1:58).