Portland Sacred Harp
On October 15 and 16, the Laurelhurst Club will ring with songs of celebration as Portland Sacred Harp (PoSH) holds its 20th Anniversary Singing Convention. People from all walks of life will join together to make raucous, exuberant music while singing in unaccompanied four-part harmony from The Sacred Harp, a shape note tunebook first published in Georgia in 1844. This community music-making is intended to be fun, social and free of performance constraints. The event is free (donations accepted), open to all ages and no experience is required. Over two full days of singing, newcomers – discovering this music for the first time – will rub shoulders with seasoned old-timers, sharing in a 200-year-old American folk tradition that continually offers more to learn and explore.
For more information on Portland Sacred Harp or the Singing Convention, click here.
Sacred Harp in Portland has come a long way in 20 years. These days, a weekly singing will draw a crowd of 30 or 40 singers. The soulful sound generated entices curious onlookers, who sometimes listen, sometimes follow along in the book and sometimes jump right in and sing. Many newcomers seek out singings after hearing Sacred Harp in local media or in the film “Cold Mountain.” Longtime singer Meg Larson views this bustle with particular satisfaction as she remembers how hard the original singers worked to build the strength and momentum the group now enjoys. “At first, it was all word of mouth and we sang in people’s living rooms,” she says. “We didn’t know what we were doing and every song was unfamiliar. We had to go through line by line and note by note.”
In the spirit of learning and exploration that made those early days so exciting, PoSH offers two monthly singing schools to help both beginner and advanced singers further their understanding of the tradition. At “Sacred Harp 101”, on the last Thursday of every month at McMenamin’s Kennedy School, singers review the rudiments of music and practice songs “line by line.” Sarah Hensel has been singing several months and is a regular at Sacred Harp 101. “The slower pace has really helped me improve,” she says. This year’s convention will open with a singing school taught by life-long singer Elene Stovall of Alabama.
“The more I sing in this tradition, the more I find there is to learn,” says Lyle Lindsey, the Chair of this year’s convention. “I’ve been singing for 6 years, but in many ways I still feel like a newcomer.” Lyle hopes to see many new faces at the convention. “This music is a true expression of our community,” he says. “Singers come from all beliefs, ages, backgrounds and interests, and everyone brings something unique to the sound.”
Portland Sacred Harp encourages anyone who loves to sing, regardless of musical experience or ability, to add their voice to the celebration! Admission to the convention is free, with donations accepted, and attendees may come and go as they please. Tunebooks will be available to borrow for the day or can be purchased for $20. A free potluck lunch will be shared at noon on both days. The Laurelhurst Club is located at 3712 SE Ankeny St, across the street from the North side of Laurelhurst Park. The singing will be from 9:30am to 3:00pm both days. Saturday’s free singing school will be from 9:30am to 11:00am. Doors open at 9:00am.