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Saturday November 01, 2014
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Ann Arbor Sacred Harp

 

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tones like an aural linzertorte. Why is this pleasurable? Why is the buzzy interaction of certain sounds so profoundly irresistible? And why does harmony make whatever you're singing seem all the more powerful? A good place to explore these questions is at the Sacred Harp sing held at the Ark nearly every month, on the second Sunday.

The sound of singing tumbled down the stairs and out into the street. In the Ark's small cafe area, chairs were set into four clusters — soprano, alto, tenor, bass — on each side of a square, facing in. There were perhaps fifteen people there on this chilly November afternoon, including a librarian, a massage therapist, a patent lawyer, and the Ark's own David Siglin. I was warmly welcomed, but I made it clear that I was practically a beginner. I found a pro to sit next to, opened up a red Sacred Harp book that someone handed me, and turned to p. 154.

First of all, no harps are plucked at a Sacred Harp sing. The Sacred Harp was a book, first published in 1844, filled with hundreds of four-part Christian hymns, odes, and anthems meant to be sung unaccompanied. The book has been updated through the years as new songs are added. There have always been stalwart Sacred Harp groups, largely in the South, but throughout the country as well, where people gather to sing, share meals, and sing again. Today, popularity of the form is on the rise; the movie Cold Mountain gave it a huge boost.

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