10. Singing Schools, Camps, and Teaching Resources

Singing Schools and Camps:

List of Upcoming Singing Schools on the Web. David Warren Steel lists on the Web upcoming shape-note singing schools consisting of at least five sessions on different days.

Camp Fasola: A Summer Camp for Learning and Singing Sacred Harp takes place annually in late June-early July in Alabama. The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association has held since 2003 the annual five-day summer Camp Fasola for teaching Sacred Harp singing, history, and traditions. Multiple daily sessions are devoted to teaching Sacred Harp singing, as well as time for recreation, rest, fellowship, and singing. The camps have drawn increasing numbers of singers of widely varying ages and singing experience and have been reported to be tremendously enjoyable and educational, musically and socially. Starting in 2008, two separate camp sessions have been held annually. Adult Camp has singing school lessons, fewer recreation options, and extensive singing elective classes. Youth Camp is for youth and adults under age 30 and has singing school lessons, a full recreation schedule, and some singing elective classes. After pausing for three years because of the Covid pandemic, the camps were held in 2023. The venue for both camps, held simultaneously, is Camp Lee near Anniston, AL. Nearby traditional Sacred Harp singings are scheduled for dates before and after each session. Registration for Camp Fasola generally begins in early January. The organizers anticipate more applicants than spaces available and thus encourage early application. More information and application instructions are found on the camp's website. Send e-mail inquiries to camp@fasola.org or telephone 404-237-1246. Camp Fasola has been made possible in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Sacred Harp Publishing Company.

The Camp Fasola Facebook page has videos of some of the 2023 classes. These were initially streamed live during the classes.

Camp Fasola Europe has been held in even numbered years in September since 2012 at the Wichrowe Wzgórze retreat, which is located approximately 36 km/23 miles west of Gdansk and 400 km/250 miles northwest of Warsaw. Like Camp Fasola in Alabama, Camp Fasola Europe is sponsored by The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association. The camp is usually held the week between the United Kingdom Sacred Harp Convention and the Poland Sacred Harp Singing Convention. Unfortunately, the camp was cancelled in 2020-2023 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but hopefully it will be held in future years.

Camp DoReMi, a singing school for the Christian Harmony and other seven-shape tunebooks, is held annually in early August the Wildacres Retreat in the Little Switzerland area of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, approximately 50 east of Asheville. Camp DoReMi is a four day immersion in learning to sing shape note music in the seven shape (do re mi) traditions. It offers classes for complete beginners as well as intermediate and advanced shape note singers. The instructors are veteran shape note singers and singing school masters. The song books used have been The Christian Harmony, 2010 Edition and The New Harp of Columbia. For further information, the registration form, and interesting photos of Camp DoReMi 2008, visit the Camp Doremi web site or the Christian Harmony website , or contact Jane Cannon at crvjanecannon-at-gmail-dot-com.

Camp DoReMi Europe has been held in England annually or biennially since 2015, except during the Covid pandemic. It was held in July 2023. It is a four-day residential singing school for youth and adults, beginners, and experienced singers. Multiple daily sessions are devoted to teaching singing from the seven-shapenote Christian Harmony and New Harp of Columbia tunebooks. The camp is organized by Werner Ullah and Michael Walker and is led by them and other veteran shape-note singers from the U.S. and U.K. The location is Othona, Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, UK, approximately 60 miles east of London.

[NEW] The Quay Smathers Memorial Singing School. This annual one-day event in Clyde, NC teaches the Blue Ridge style of shaped-note singing. The tunebook used is 2015 facsimile edition of The Christian Harmony by William Walker, which uses the unique 7-shape notation of Walker. Quay Smathers (1913-1997) was a prominent singing school teacher in the mountains of western North Carolina. The 2024 singing school is on April 14 and is the fifth annual one -- the first one held since 2019 after a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic. Information about the veteran teachers and registration is found on the web page. There is also a Facebook page about the singing school, which at the time of this writing is not up-to-date.

Village Harmony Summer Camps In spite of the recent tragic death of Village Harmony founder and director Larry Gordon, the camp programs will continue under the direction of experienced leaders. The Village Harmony Summer Camps in Vermont and abroad draw together dedicated teenage and adult singers from around the world with a particular interest in an unusual and expanding repertoire which features shape-note and Appalachian music, Balkan village songs and dances, and traditional music from several countries, as well as medieval, renaissance, baroque and contemporary music. The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the camps offered in 2023, but more complete offerings are planned for 2024. In the past at least four types of camps were offered: (1) residential (non-traveling) camps in New England, (2) traveling camps in the U.S. (New England and elsewhere), (3) residential camps abroad (different musically interesting countries each year), and (4) traveling camps abroad in musically interesting countries (South Africa, Bulgaria, and elsewhere). Each camp is led by several accomplished teachers and performers in the areas of musical focus. For more information about these remarkable programs, first check the website, and then contact the Village Harmony Summer Camp, 5748 Hollister Hill Rd., Marshfield, VT 05658, e-mail villageharmony@gmail.com.

Teaching Resources on Video, Internet, and Cell Phone/Tablet Apps (mostly reiterated from other chapters):

"Sacred Harp Singing School Workbook" and audio files by David I. Lee and Karen E. Willard, July 2005 edition. David Lee of Hoboken, GA and Karen Willard of Seattle, WA collaborated to produce an outstanding 45-page booklet with 27 audio files, for teaching the rudiments of music written in the fa-sol-la-mi four-shape notation and for singing Sacred Harp music. It is ideal for potential singers who have not attended an actual singing school or who are having trouble learning Sacred Harp singing. Karen Willard writes: "At the above website you'll see a PDF workbook for beginners that you can download and print out. Then depending upon whether you want MP3 files or the much larger .wav audio files, you can download the many examples that illustrate the workbook. The scales are repeated numerous times, both major scale and minor scale, in both a male voice and a female voice." This resource has helped many people without a strong musical background learn to sing. The webpage cited above has been down for several years but hopefully will return. In the meantime, email Karen at kayren-dot-willard-at-gmail-dot-com for ordering information.

"Teach Me Some Melodious Sonnet: Sacred Harp Singing School" taught by Elder J. L. Hopper. The Joe Beasley Memorial Foundation produced in 2004 an instructional video. This two-VHS cassette or two-DVD package contains over three hours of instructional material taught in 18 easy-to-understand lessons with illustrations using 29 songs. According to Gary Smith, "The tape includes lessons by Elder Hopper, along with illustrations and demonstrations recorded at the singing at Gum Pond Primitive Baptist Church in Morgan County, Alabama in the summer of 2003. The lessons start with the very beginning of the Rudiments, and go through the complexities of the chromatic scale." A 2-DVD set is $22.50, and a 2-VHS set is $30.00, postpaid.

Singing School taught by Jeff and Shelbie Sheppard, 1997, Chicago. The Sheppards, life-long traditional singers and Sacred Harp masters from Glencoe, Alabama taught a two-day singing school which was videotaped by Gary Gronau of St. Louis on amateur equipment. A 54-minute video was prepared. According to Mr. Gronau, "This was not an ordinary singing school of the rudiments; rather it was more of a master class in technique, style, and graces of effective leading (including footwork!), combined with a living history lesson and "family stories" of an earlier time, of Tom Denson, A.M. Cagle ..." To order a copy by mail, send a check, payable to Wings of Song, for $10.00 per copy to Gary Gronau, 6240 Rosebury, St. Louis, MO 63105.

"Shape Note Singings," documentary produced in 1971 by Georgia Public Broadcasting, directed by David Fisher. The 28-minute black-and-white video features precious scenes from the 1971 Georgia State Sacred Harp Convention in Villa Rica, GA, some historical explanation with sketches by Richard Perry, and an additional 12 minutes of a singing workshop for high-school choir students led by the incomparable Hugh McGraw. Mr. McGraw discussed the major scale only and then taught the class to sing the simple but beautiful song "Mear." The video was professionally produced but as seen on YouTube is grainy with some imperfections. More on this video in Chapter 9.

"Among That Band: Christian Harmony Singing School" 4-DVD set. This singing school, organized by Emily Creel, took place 2009 at Old County Line Church, Corner, AL, and featured lessons on the history of Christian Harmony, history of the seven-shape notation, rudiments, and keying songs, taught by three accomplished singing school masters Cassie Franklin Allen, Tim Cook, and Bill Hogan. The singing school was captured on video in high-definition and is available on a 4-DVD set, priced at $27.50 postpaid.(/p>

FaSoLaMix, an iOS app with recordings of traditional Sacred Harp singing and the capability of manipulating the mix of the four parts for learning and fun. This app for iPhones, iPads, and iPods was developed in 2018 by Mark Godfrey with Matt Hinton and Matt Goldman and features the singing of songs from The Sacred Harp (Denson revisions and 1991 Edition) by a top-notch class of traditional singers from Alabama and Georgia, singing at the Liberty Baptist Church in Henegar, AL. In addition to listening with all voice parts balanced, one can select one part to play "solo" at full volume while reducing or muting the other parts. Alternatively, one can control the relative volume of any of the four parts for different purposes, such as to hear how two of the four parts harmonize in isolation from the other two, or to mute one part and sing that part while listening to the other three. The app has two interfaces. One is a visual representation of the hollow square with a marker that one can drag around to different spots. The other interface is similar to a usual audio mixer. One can independently change the pitch and tempo of the singing to a limited extent. As of November 2019, 24 songs are included in the app, with future "song packs" envisioned. Energetic and intricate fuging tunes, particularly Southern ones published in the Denson editions before 1991, are well represented, making this app a learning tool suitable for singers more advanced than beginners. The price is $14.99 from the Apple App Store. All proceeds from the sale of this app will be donated to the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association.

Voice parts of songs from The Sacred Harp 1991 Edition on the Sacred Harp Bremen [Germany] website. This website mostly in the German language has a remarkable teaching resource: Under the heading Lieder (songs), there are links to computer-generated audio files for each voice part of each song in The Sacred Harp 1991 Edition. One can listen separately to each computer-generated voice part -- treble (labeled Sopran), treble an octave lower, alto, tenor, bass) and all four (or three) parts together -- with words of the first verse. The parts are pleasantly "sung" by a computer with what sounds like a British accent. Each voice part is heard not in isolation but with the other parts audible softly in the background. An image of the score of the featured song is visible below the buttons for the audio files. For some songs, there are also links to YouTube videos of the featured song sung by real people at various singings in Europe and the UK.

Voice parts of songs from The Christian Harmony sung by robots. Ulrike Tietjen and Harald Grundner of the Bremen (Germany) Sacred Harp singers have created a site similar to the one described immediately above for learning voice parts of all 672 songs from the Christian Harmony 2010 Edition. The descriptive text is in English and includes the following: "You can listen to them, but do not expect realistic sound. Do not even expect real singers; you will hear robots singing. They sound sterile and artificial. They don't know what "accent" is and sing too high in general. But they hit the right notes most of the time... and they allow you to listen to individual parts (Treble, Alto, Tenor, Bass) and learn them." This should be a useful resource for learning voice parts of songs of one's interest.

Voice parts of songs from The Shenandoah Harmony sung by robots. Ulrike Tietjen and Harald Grundner of the Bremen (Germany) Sacred Harp singers have created a site similar to the two described immediately above for learning voice parts of the 489 songs from the Shenandoah Harmony. The site is similar to the two others described immediately above for The Sacred Harp and Christian Harmony.

Steven L. Sabol (sabol@his.com)
HTML version by Warren Steel (mudws@molemiss.edu)