Advance timed tickets are required. Massachusetts travel restrictions are in place. Check for details prior to visiting.

Holy Manna Concert Screening, Part 1

Friday, January 8, 2021

12:00 PM–1:00 PM
Get Directions
Experience the uniquely American sounds of shape note music with a three-part screening of Holy Manna performed by the early music ensemble Ruckus in collaboration with bass-baritone John Taylor Ward.
Each Friday, click here for a new release of a concert film captured during a live performance at the Clark last autumn. There is no need to register for the concert film.
Part two will be released January 15, and the series culminates with a live Zoom conversation on January 22 at 6 pm featuring John Taylor Ward and Ruckus ensemble leader and bassoonist Clay Zeller-Townson.. Click here to register.

Lexicon of Early American Psalmody 

Lining-out: A practice of congregational psalm singing which was generally performed without notation.  In practice, a leader sings the tune, followed by the congregation. Common practice amongst earliest English colonists in New England and a lasting tradition throughout rural American communities. 
Regular Singing: 1) to read music from written notes - as opposed to lining-out. Musical practice advocated by Singing Schools the eighteenth century. 2) A shape-note singing that happens regularly in a community on a weekly or monthly basis.
Singing Convention: A one-day or multi-day annual singing, hosted by a local singing group, but attended by visitors from around the USA and the world, featuring pot-luck meals.
Singing Schools: A practice developed in the colonial US in which traveling singing masters would offer group lessons in reading music and singing from shape note tune books. Singing schools were one of the only opportunities for young women and men to intermingle in colonial New England. These classes continue to the present day.
Shape Notes: A system of notation that came into use in the early 19th century, in which the shape of note-heads correspond with solfege syllables of a scale (fa, sol, la, mi). Originating in the northeast, it found lasting use in the rural south and midwest.
Fasola [contraction of Fa-Sol-La]: Instead of the solfege system that we all know from The Sound of Music (Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti), early shape-note music uses a solfege system with only four names for notes: Fa, Sol, La, and Mi. One of the characteristics of traditional shape-note singing schools which survives today is “singing the notes,” in which the reading of the tune begins with singing it through on solfege syllables
Hollow Square: The traditional formation for a shape note singing, in which singers sit, facing inward, with tenors, basses, altos, and trebles (in clockwise order) each making up one side of the square.
“Better Music Movement”: An early 19th century movement, led by Lowell Mason and others, to push out the “rude and crude” music practiced at singing schools and replace it with European classical music. In addition to successfully tamping down the shape-note repertoire in northern urban centers, this movement led directly to the formation of the first classical music institutions in the United States, such as Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society.
The Sacred Harp: First published in 1844, this book has gone through many versions and editions in the past 177 years, with a new edition expected in 2021. It is by far the most commonly used shape-note tune book today – so much so that the terms Sacred Harp and Shape-Note have become almost interchangeable. The Sacred Harp Publishing Company is in Bremen, GA.
The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion: Compiled by William Walker of South Carolina and first published in 1835, was one of the most influential shape-note tune books. Walker claimed that the first edition sold over 600,000 copies in its first edition, which would have made it one of the most widely distributed books of any kind in the early United States. Although the final edition of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was printed in 1854, it is the most often-cited source of tunes in modern, non-shape-note, hymnals.
Period Instruments:  Replica (and original) instruments whose design is specific to a moment in history and its corresponding repertoire.  Ruckus’ instruments in this project are generally modeled after early 18th-century types. 
Theorbo:  a relatively rare, massive lute (see The Church’s Desolation and Morning)
Harpsichord: an early keyboard (pre-piano) that plucks, rather than strikes, the string. (See Holy Manna)
New England (or “Yankee”) Bass Viol: A stringed instrument similar to a cello used to accompany psalmody in New England in the decades surrounding 1800. New England viols were also built in smaller "tenor" and "alto" sizes and used to accompany the corresponding voice parts. (see Holy Manna and The Church’s Desolation)
Shape Note Singings in Massachusetts
Regular Monthly and Weekly Singings:
·       Amherst: First Sundays - 2-4:30 pm - The Octagon on the Amherst College Campus. Info: Linda Shea,[email protected] or (413) 262-5244. 1991 revision, Cooper book, Shenandoah Harmony, and Harp of Ages.
·       Boston (Brookline): Second Sundays - 4-7 pm - St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 15 St. Paul Street. Info: Christina Wallin [email protected]
·       Boston (Charlestown): Second Sundays - 3-6 pm - St. John's Episcopal Church, 27 Devens St, Charlestown, MA 02129 . Info: MB Gowins, [email protected], or
·       Boston (Rotating): Wednesdays - 7-9 pm - Rotating Locations. Please see our website for the current space rotation. Info: MB Gowins, [email protected], or
·       Cambridge: Wednesdays after First and Third Sundays - 6-8 pm - Harvard Divinity Hall, 14 Divinity Avenue. Please check in advance of a singing, as it may be canceled if it falls near a major holiday. Info: Patrick Burrows, [email protected], Micah John Walter, [email protected], or
·       Greenfield: Fifth Sundays - Cooper Book - 1:30-4:30 pm - Location varies. Info: Sheila Kelley, [email protected] or
·       Lenox: Third Sundays - 1-4 pm (beginning with a singing school) - Church on the Hill Chapel, 55 Main Street Info: Allison Schofield, [email protected], or Sally Langendorf, [email protected].
·       Leyden: Fifth Thursdays - 910 Greenfield Road - Potluck supper at 6 pm, followed by singing, 7-10 pm, Various four- and seven-shape tune books used. Info: Laura Timmerman (413) 773-8325 [email protected].
·       Newbury: Third Sundays - 3-5:30 pm - First Parish Church, 20 High Road. Info: Chris Noren, [email protected].
·       Newton: Second Mondays - 7:45-10:00 pm - Andover-Newton Theological School. Info: Bob Parr (781) 648-1009[email protected] or Bill Holt (617) 923-6044[email protected].
·       Northampton: Every Tuesday - 7-10 pm - Helen Hills Chapel, Smith College. Info: Linda Shea [email protected] , (413) 262-5244, or check for current information.
Annual Singing Conventions:
·       Second Sunday of March and Saturday before - Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention - War Memorial Building, 310 Appleton Street, Holyoke.  
·       Saturday before Second Sunday in May - Boston All-Day Singing - First Church in Jamaica Plain UU, 6 Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain. 
·       Saturday before First Sunday in July - Pioneer Valley Singing - First Congregational Church Chapel, Sunderland MA
·       Saturday before Fourth Sunday in October - Newton Singing (Norumbega Harmony and the Sacred Harp - Church of the Redeemer, 379 Hammond Street, Newton MA 
·       Saturday before Second Sunday in November - Berkshire Foothills Singing - Lenox Community Center, 65 Walker Street, Lenox MA