Click for Ann Arbor, Michigan Forecast
Wednesday February 22, 2017
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Print Comment E-mail

Ann Arbor Sacred Harp

 

continued

Sacred Harp songs are written in four "shape notes": "la" is a square, "fa" is a triangle, "sol" is a circle, and "mi" is a diamond. A scale sung using the shapes would go "fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa." When a particular hymn is called, the singers first sing it through using the shapes and then again with the words. If that sounds complicated, it is. The woman next to me whispered, "Don't worry about the shapes — just sing 'la' on everything if you want to." I did, and was right 25 percent of the time. It was a little easier with the words — so long as I didn't think about what I was singing.

This is dark stuff, penned during a time in which death was a part of daily life, earthly life was regarded as an uncomfortable way station to heaven, and faith explained everything, good and bad. Times are bad now too, I suppose, and there's comfort to be found in the more uplifting lyrics, but as I found myself loudly intoning things like "What is this that steals, that steals upon my frame? Is it death? Is it death?" my mind kept coming back to germ theory and antibiotics and the comforts therein. Songs like "World Unknown" ask, "Am I born to die? To lay this body down? And must my trembling spirit fly into a world unknown?" and made me realize afresh that there are some questions that are uniquely human, and asked across the ages.

Bookmark and Share
previous  ·  1 l 2 l 3 l 4  ·  next page
all on one page
read more stories here -> Marketplace  l  Culture  l  Community  l  News

You might also like:

Pale Flower - Japanese film noir Pale Flower - Japanese film noir
Calendar This Week - Lectures, Readings, Discussions, & Forums Calendar This Week - Lectures, Readings, Discussions, & Forums
Dexter Parks And Recreation Areas Dexter Parks And Recreation Areas
Subscribe to the Ann Arbor Observer Subscribe to the Ann Arbor Observer
Ann Arbor Environment Ann Arbor Environment
Parking Squeeze - The city wants downtown parki... Parking Squeeze - The city wants downtown parki...
Working from Home (or Workantile) - The pros an... Working from Home (or Workantile) - The pros an...
Batsheva Dance Company - Mesmerizing Batsheva Dance Company - Mesmerizing
The Strange Tale of Mr. Shiji - Homeless and me... The Strange Tale of Mr. Shiji - Homeless and me...
Crime Map Crime Map
Victors For Art February 18th through June 11th