National Sacred Harp Singing Convention in Alabama Attracts International Music Lovers Annually

The Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention is a distinguished event that garners global attention, drawing over 500 music enthusiasts from various corners of the world to Alabama each June. Rooted in tradition and also known as fasola or shape-note singing, the convention holds a significant place in the annals of music history.

Originating in 1980 at Samford University, the convention has since evolved into a hallmark event, featuring all-day singings and daily dinners. Its distinctive elements, such as the absence of musical instruments and unique seating arrangements, contribute to its allure.

Run by a committed volunteer committee, the convention sustains itself through collections and the sale of recorded CDs.

This introduction offers a comprehensive overview of the convention's historical significance, structural nuances, and available resources for music enthusiasts and historians.

Key Takeaways

  • The Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention is held in Alabama every June and attracts more than 500 participants from around the world.
  • Sacred Harp singing is a tradition also known as gallery music or Georgian psalmody in the United Kingdom and fasola or shape-note singing in Alabama.
  • The convention follows a specific structure, with singers sitting in a square, sections determined by singing part, a leader announcing songs, and no musical instruments accompanying the singers.
  • The convention was first held in 1980 at Samford University and is organized and funded by a volunteer committee, with no membership dues or convention fees.

Historical Significance and Evolution

The historical significance and evolution of the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention can be traced back to its inaugural event in 1980 at Samford University.

This convention holds immense cultural significance as it celebrates the rich tradition of Sacred Harp singing, attracting participants and music enthusiasts from around the globe.

Over the years, the convention has evolved into a symbol of cultural heritage, preserving and promoting the art of shape-note singing. The event has become a testament to the enduring legacy of Sacred Harp music, showcasing its evolution and continued relevance in today's world.

Global Attraction and Participation

With a growing number of international music enthusiasts, the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention has increasingly become a global attraction, drawing participants from diverse cultural backgrounds to celebrate the tradition of Sacred Harp singing.

The convention's global appeal has had a significant impact on tourism in Alabama, bringing in visitors from around the world who contribute to the local economy during their stay.

Furthermore, the participation of individuals from various countries has facilitated a rich cultural exchange, allowing for the sharing of different musical traditions and fostering a deeper understanding of diverse global perspectives.

The convention's ability to attract international attendees highlights its growing influence and relevance in the global music community.

Unique Structure and Traditions

Boasting a distinctive square seating arrangement and the absence of musical instruments, the unique structure and traditions of the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention are integral to the rich history of this celebrated event. The convention's structure is rooted in the sacred harp singing techniques, where singers sit facing each other in a square, enhancing the communal experience and focusing the sound of their voices inward. Sections are determined by singing part, including basses, trebles, altos, and tenors. The leader stands in the center, announcing songs by page number, setting the opening pitch, and directing the singers with hand motions. This distinctive setup has both historical and cultural significance, contributing to the convention's status as a revered tradition in the world of sacred harp music.

Sacred Harp Singing Techniques Cultural Significance
Square seating arrangement Rich historical roots
Absence of musical instruments Communal singing experience
Sectioned by singing part Fosters tradition and unity
Leader's central role Honors sacred harp heritage

Convention Schedule and Activities

Evidently, the convention's schedule and activities are meticulously planned to provide a rich and engaging experience for participants.

The following activities are included to enhance the convention experience:

  • Sacred Harp Workshops: These workshops delve into the historical significance and traditional singing techniques of Sacred Harp music, offering participants an opportunity to deepen their understanding and mastery of this unique musical tradition.
  • Singing Sessions: The convention schedule features multiple singing sessions, allowing attendees to immerse themselves in the rich harmonies and spirited melodies of Sacred Harp music, fostering a sense of community and shared musical passion.
  • Social Gatherings: In addition to the musical aspects, the convention also includes social gatherings, providing participants with opportunities to connect, share experiences, and forge lasting friendships with fellow enthusiasts of Sacred Harp singing.

Community Involvement and Support

The success of the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention is attributed to the extensive involvement and support from the local community. Fundraising methods such as daily collections and the sale of CDs recorded at previous conventions contribute to covering expenses.

Additionally, local churches play a pivotal role by providing buildings for the convention, as Samford University is no longer involved. Their contributions not only offer a venue for the event but also demonstrate the community's commitment to preserving and promoting the Sacred Harp singing tradition.

This collaborative effort ensures the continuity of the convention, allowing music enthusiasts from around the world to gather and celebrate this cherished tradition.

Impact on Music Education

An important aspect of the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention is its significant impact on music education. The convention offers educators a unique opportunity to introduce students to the rich cultural heritage and traditional singing practices of the Sacred Harp tradition. This role in schools is crucial in providing valuable insights into traditional singing practices and fostering a deeper understanding of historical musical traditions.

In addition to its role in schools, the convention also plays a vital role in cultural preservation. By preserving and promoting traditional music, the convention ensures that historical musical traditions are passed down to future generations. This is important in maintaining the cultural identity and heritage associated with the Sacred Harp tradition.

Moreover, the convention hosts educational workshops that provide teachers with resources and knowledge to incorporate traditional singing practices into music education curriculums. These workshops enrich students' understanding of music history and cultural diversity. By offering these educational opportunities, the convention not only enhances music education but also contributes to the overall appreciation and recognition of traditional music.

Notable Performances and Recordings

The convention showcases outstanding performances by seasoned Sacred Harp singers and offers a platform for capturing these exceptional renditions through high-quality recordings. These recordings make a significant contribution to folk music by preserving and promoting the unique sound of Sacred Harp singing. Additionally, the convention provides cultural exchange opportunities, attracting international music enthusiasts who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the event. Through these notable performances and recordings, the Annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention not only celebrates the rich tradition of Sacred Harp singing but also contributes to the global music community by fostering cross-cultural connections and appreciation for this distinctive form of musical expression.

Notable Performances and Recordings
Preserves the unique sound of Sacred Harp singing Captures exceptional renditions Contributes to folk music Attracts international music enthusiasts Fosters cultural exchange opportunities

Future of the Sacred Harp Tradition

  • Safeguarding original Sacred Harp songs
  • Promoting educational initiatives for future generations
  • Exploring contemporary adaptations that respect tradition
  • Collaborating with modern musicians
  • Embracing diverse cultural influences
  • Leveraging technology to reach wider audiences
  • Balancing preservation with contemporary relevance

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Different Types of Songs Typically Sung at the Sacred Harp Convention?

The types of songs typically sung at the Sacred Harp convention include traditional hymns and psalms, with a focus on the four-part a cappella singing tradition. The convention also incorporates innovative sessions, introducing new songs and songbooks.

How Are the Convention Expenses Covered and What Fundraising Activities Take Place?

The convention expenses are covered through a daily collection taken from participants. Fundraising activities include the sale of CDs recorded at previous conventions. Community involvement and sponsorship opportunities are utilized to support the convention financially.

Are There Any Specific Rules or Guidelines for Participating in the Convention as a Singer?

Participant eligibility for the Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention is open to anyone interested in the Sacred Harp tradition. Singing guidelines involve sitting in designated sections and following the leader's directions for song announcements and pitch.

What Role Do Local Churches Play in Supporting the Convention?

Local churches play a vital role in supporting the convention through community involvement. They provide buildings for the event, volunteer assistance, and contribute to the sense of community. Their support fosters the preservation and celebration of Sacred Harp singing tradition.

How Has the Convention Evolved and Grown Since Its Inception in 1980?

Since its 1980 inception, the Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention has evolved from a local gathering to an internationally renowned event, witnessing exceptional growth and an expanding cultural impact, attracting enthusiasts from around the world.


In conclusion, the annual Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention has evolved into a globally renowned event, attracting over 500 participants from around the world. With its unique structure and traditions, sustained by a dedicated volunteer committee, the convention continues to make a significant impact on music education and the preservation of this cherished musical tradition.

Notably, the convention's recorded CDs from previous gatherings have been sold to support its sustainability, with over 10,000 CDs sold to date.

Our Reader’s Queries

What is the national sacred harp singing?

Sacred Harp singing is a timeless tradition of sacred choral music that began in New England and was continued in the American South. It gets its name from The Sacred Harp, a widely used and historically significant tunebook printed in shape notes.

What religion is the sacred harp?

While Sacred Harp is not tied to any specific religious group, it holds significant spiritual significance for participants and serves as a form of worship for many singers. Sacred Harp gatherings are not traditional performances, as there are no prior rehearsals and no designated seating for spectators.

What is the singing scale of Sacred Harp?

The Sacred Harp’s shape-note system employs distinct shapes for each of the four syllables in the musical scale: fa (triangle), sol (circle), la (rectangle), and mi (diamond). The image depicted here is “Windham” from The Sacred Harp’s 1911 edition. Image source: Wikimedia.

Do Sacred Harp singers perform a cappella?

Join in the Sacred Harp tradition, where everyone is invited to participate in singing a cappella music in 4-part harmony. All are welcome to join in the joyful, inclusive experience.

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