Sacred Harp/Shape-Note Singing


Brown Sacred Harp special singing at Louis Restaurant, Spring 2015Brown Sacred Harp special singing at Louis Restaurant, Spring 2015Sacred Harp singing is a vibrant community singing tradition associated with the American shape-note tunebook The Sacred Harp. This singing style and repertoire has roots in colonial New England and the nineteenth-century American South. Sacred Harp singing is a participatory practice, not a concert performance tradition. The Brown Sacred Harp community offers a high-energy, low-pressure musical experience to anyone who wants to join in. We don't hold auditions, and there are no rehearsals leading up to concerts. Instead, at each weekly meeting singers take turns choosing tunes from the book and leading the assembled group in song. Participants learn to sight-sing shape-note notation (a system in which shaped noteheads are associated with solfege syllables), a practice which should improve their sight-singing in other contexts. They also learn how to lead tunes in the Southern traditional style (a distinctive form of choral conducting), and how to set the pitch for tunes without the use of a keying instrument. This is a non-denominational, unaccompanied, four-part folk hymnody tradition. The musical repertoire in the tunebook stretches from the 18th to the 20th century; most of the song texts are 18th-century British sacred poetry. 

The weekly Brown singing convenes in Steinert 105 (corner of Hope St. and Power St.) on Thursdays, 5-7 p.m., during the fall and spring semesters. Weekly sessions continue off-campus during the summer. Students/faculty/staff/community members: all are welcome! Newcomers and drop-in participants may join us any week.

To learn more:

* For general information about Sacred Harp/shape-note singing, visit For a schedule of Rhode Island Sacred Harp singing events, visit Questions? Contact Professor Kiri Miller (

* Visit the Providence Shape-Note Singing Facebook page here.

* Listen to this podcast about the Brown Sacred Harp group, produced by Anna Russian in Spring 2015.