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Thread: Shape Note and Russian Choral Singing

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Default Shape Note and Russian Choral Singing

    An unusual similarity: shape note choral singing (sometimes called "sacred harp" singing) and Russian choral singing.

    A recent segment on NPR on the revival and growing popularity of shape note singing caught my ear. The tradition, I am told, hearkens back to colonial times in America, and involves (today, especially) a group of singers sitting in a large square facing one another and singing harmony for the pure joy and excitement of a communal experience . The very sound of the massed voices resonating all around each can create, clearly, a powerful collective and bonding frisson, which is reinforced by the repeated arm gestures of the entranced singers. Much of today's shape note singing, while it often involves religious subjects, attracts participants from all backgrounds without discrimination, drawn together only or primarily for the shared experience. Here is a YouTube example:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AUjsKLpTT3k

    What also struck me was the similarity of sacred harp song to a recording of Russian choral singing from the Soviet era. The Chorus of the Volga presented musical homage to the great river and the cities along its banks sounding very akin to shape note song. Doubtless both groups experienced the same sense of euphoria that permeates the choral bonding. Here is a song by the Chorus of the Volga:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DuMtI5...cfT_9Q&index=4

    One can easily understand how powerful and unifying such a shared musical bond can be.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Jan-22-2020 at 23:11.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    I think I'll add here the link to the Chorus of the Volga singing the specimen Volga song, the Song of the Volga Boatmen. Lovers of Glazunov's Stenka Razin will find their skin in goosebumps...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0U3...cfT_9Q&index=3

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    I am a Sacred Harp singer. I do not notice much similarity styles posted. There is similarity regarding some open harmonies and contrapuntal sections. Come to a Sacred Harp singing sometime fasola.org will give you the locations of annual singings bymonth and their location. Europe and Asia now have been 'seeded' and have active singing communities
    Last edited by david johnson; Feb-10-2020 at 09:43.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by david johnson View Post
    I am a Sacred Harp singer. I do not notice much similarity styles posted. There is similarity regarding some open harmonies and contrapuntal sections. Come to a Sacred Harp singing sometime fasola.org will give you the locations of annual singings bymonth and their location. Europe and Asia now have been 'seeded' and have active singing communities
    David, it was good to get a response to my post. Regarding experiencing musical (and other) similarities, I have noticed that--like most everything--people differ in what they report. As an outsider to Sacred Harp, I heard right away a similarity with the Russian singing. I don't know whether it's because I'm an outsider or just because we're two different people. I do often see or hear similarities and point them out to my wife, and she says I'm imagining things!

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    HA...imagine all you wish. Remind her that she is beautiful, at least in your imagination Here is a sample of a singing listing. http://home.olemiss.edu/~mudws/annual.html

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    Strange Magic: here I get to lead "Wondrous Love" at a singing on Sand Mountain in Alabama. I enjoy attending a few sings each year.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Thank you david johnson! I really like this piece and am glad you shared.

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    Here is effective use of the Sacred Harp tune Idumea (And Am I Born to Die) in a soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl-_dWJLd6E&t=45s

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    Unnerving juxtaposition. I did not see the film, but it was a great book.

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