Sacred Harp Sing Tradition Returns to Baylor

Sacred Harp Sing
Sacred Harp Sing participants. 2013 courtesy photo.
Feb. 6, 2014

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Feb. 6, 2014) - The Baylor Center for Christian Music Studies will host the 13th annual Sacred Harp sing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, in the Great Hall of George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Sacred Harp is an American tradition that brings people together to sing four-part hymns and anthems, some more than 200 years old. The tradition has been passed on by generations of singers, but those unfamiliar with it often join as well.

The tradition came from colonial singing schools, which were designed to teach beginners to sing using shapes in place of notes. A triangle, oval, square and diamond were used to represent the notes "fa, sol, la, mi," respectively, known as the "fasola" or "shaped note" technique.

Traditionally, singers sit in a square formation facing each other, with a space in the center for the leader. Participants usually sing from the songbook "The Sacred Harp," where the tradition gets its name. The phrase "sacred harp" refers to the voice, man's natural instrument.

Below is footage from the 11th annual Sacred Harp sing at Baylor.

This first singing was held on campus after Gayle Avant, Ph.D., retired Baylor political science professor and member of the Baylor Sacred Harp Committee, and Judge Donald Ross of Texarkana met 15 years ago at a singing.

"He said, 'There ought to be a sacred harp ceremony at Baylor,'" Avant said. "I said, 'Yes there should!"

The following year, the Center for Christian Music Studies took over sponsorship of the annual event.

"It's part of our American church music heritage that we want our students to be exposed to," said David Music, D.M.A., professor of church music in Baylor's Center for Christian Music Studies.

"It's fairly informal," he said. "It's a participation kind of thing, not a listener's event. It's not a concert, it's 'everybody come and sing.'"

Guests are not obliged to participate, Avant said, but that "anybody who likes to sing hymns will automatically be participating."

For those unfamiliar with Sacred Harp sing, a brief introduction to the tradition will be held half an hour before the event.

Truett is located on Baylor's campus at 1100 S. Third St. The event is free and open to the public, and courtesy lunches will be provided. For more information, contact Avant at (214) 772-5572 or Music at (254) 710-2360.

by Rachel Miller, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

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