Sacred Harp Music Explored


Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp is the first feature documentary about Sacred Harp singing, a haunting form of a cappella, shape note hymn singing with deep roots in the American South. Shape note singing has survived over 200 years tucked away from notice in the rural deep south, where in old country churches, singers break open The Sacred Harp, a 160 year old shape note hymnal which has preserved these fiercely beautiful songs which are some of the oldest in America. The film offers a glimpse into the lives of this 'Lost Tonal Tribe' whose history is a story of both rebellion and tradition. The filmmakers, Matt and Erica Hinton spent seven years documenting this yet largely unknown art form.

The Hintons wanted to put together a soundtrack for their film that would provide an introduction to the songs of The Sacred Harp, and also they wanted to make the songs accessible for a new audience. They tapped an amazing list of artists to contribute to the project, including John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (who duets here with Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl), Doc Watson, Elvis Perkins, Jim Lauderdale, Murry Hammond (of Old 97's), Danielson, Richard Buckner, The Innocence Mission, Rick Moody (author of Garden State and The Ice Storm), Wovenhand and more.

"As a musician, it's almost impossible to sing Sacred Harp without wondering what the songs would sound like in another context. That curiosity, combined with my desire to make Sacred Harp more known to a culture which has largely ignored it, led to the creation of Help Me To Sing," says Matt Hinton. "At its core, I see it as a way of opening a door to a musical tradition that very many people are unfamiliar with. As far as I'm concerned, Help Me to Sing is the hook. Real Sacred Harp singing, as heard on the Awake My Soul soundtrack... well, that's the fish. It just so happens that in this case, even the bait wound up being extraordinary."

A two-disc set will be released on October 14 by Awake Productions. Disc one is the original soundtrack of Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, and includes traditional Sacred Harp singing, as recorded in rural Georgia and Alabama. Disc Two is titled Help Me To Sing: Songs of the Sacred Harp performed by various artists. This is the first-ever collection of popular music adaptations of Sacred Harp songs.

Disc One: Awake, My Soul: Traditional Sacred Harp Singing from Georgia & Alabama

1. China
2. Russia
3. Stratfield
4. Jordan
5. Marlborough
6. Bear Creek
7. Abbeville
8. Corinth
9. Lloyd
10. Eternal Day
11. New Britain
12. Delight
13. Panting For Heaven
14. New Jordan
15. Restoration
16. Prodigal Son
17. Schenectady
18. America
19. Antioch
20. Norwich
21. Consecration
22. Poland
23. Idumea
24. Cowper

Disc Two: Help Me To Sing: Various Artists performing Songs Inspired by the Film

1 "Blooming Youth" - Rayna Gellert (Uncle Earl) & John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
2 "Weeping Pilgrim" - Elvis Perkins in Dearland
3 "David's Lamentation" - The Good Players
4 "Africa" - The Innocence Mission
5 "The Christian's Hope" - Jim Lauderdale with Jeni & Billy
6 "Help Me To Sing" - Mac Powell (Third Day)
7 "Columbus" - John Wesley Harding
8 "The Traveler" - Cordelia's Dad
9 "Abbeville" - Liz Janes
10 "China" - All Things Bright & Beautiful
11 "Essay" - Tenement Halls
12 "Windham" - Richard Buckner
13 "Sermon on the Mount" - Danielson
14 "And Am I Born to Die?" - Doc Watson & Gaither Carlton
15 "Kedron" - Sam Amidon
16 "Consecration" - Wovenhand
17 "The Grieved Soul" - Rick Moody and Nina Katchadourian
18 "Vernon / Wrestling Jacob" - Tim Eriksen (Cold Mountain Soundtrack)
19 "Christian's Farewell" - DM Stith
20 "Bound For Canaan" - Murry Hammond (Old 97's)

Here's the movie trailer for this exciting new documentary.

[Published on: 9/15/08]

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Jeff Kash Mon 9/15/2008 05:48AM
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Jeff Kash


mrkimmel Mon 9/15/2008 06:58AM
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Ive sone some of this shape note singing for a show I did once....has stuck with me ever since/ really haunting and very beautiful stuff

MyFavBandIsTheBestYoursSucks starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/15/2008 09:48AM
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Sounds interesting, Would have never heard about this, too bad Netflix doesnt stock this one yet. I Would like to see more info on Jambase about DVD,s CD's ect. regarding the history of music.

Pipes3 Mon 9/15/2008 10:38AM
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An example of Sacred Harp (Shape Note) singing can be seen in the movie "Cold Mountain". There is a scene where members of the community have met to sing in the local church. The scene is near the begining of the movie just prior to the men of the town being drafted. The best way to experience the music is at a live singing. Local singings can be found at .