908-996-5018 contact@artyard.org

Dear Friends,

Imagine Woody Guthrie colliding with a trainload of singing Gregorian monks. If you watched the film Cold Mountain, you have heard Sacred Harp singing. It is an elemental, plaintive, joyful and yearning kind of music that has a powerful effect on its singers, who sing not to an audience but to their fellow singers arrayed on benches around a “hollow square.” It was created before the Civil War for illiterate non-singers and requires no skills. But it does require a little human throng.

I am writing because of my enthusiasm for this strange beautiful music and because we can’t make it happen unless people show up and take a chance on a new experience of participatory art. From ArtYard’s inception, my dream has been to bring circus performer / queer activist / Bread and Puppet Musical Director Gregory Corbino to ArtYard to launch Sacred Harp singing here. I cajoled and pleaded, and I wore him down. Now I need the throng!

If you Youtube “Sacred Harp” or “Shape Note” (its other name), you will hear the melodies, but the essence will elude you because the music isn’t so much heard as it is felt as a vibration in your chest, or if I was feeling hyperbolic – your heart.  Johnny Cash grew up as a shape note singer, and once you know that you can hear it in his every song.

Shape Note Singing is a uniquely American tradition of community singing that has been described as “stark and haunting.. powerful, and elemental by the New York Times and NPR.  (You can listen to this brief NPR podcast on Shape Note Singing here). The term “shape note” indicates that four different shapes replace the circular note heads, making sight-reading easier. Unlike many forms of a cappella singing where other parts support the main melody, all four vocal parts are melodically interesting.

Although its lyrics and origins are often religious, the practice is enjoyed by agnostics, atheists, Buddhists and churchgoers alike. Events attract singers from wide geographies and backgrounds. It is not unusual for a punk rock recording artist to lead a group that includes Mennonite ladies in traditional attire. It enjoys a loyal following in the US, UK, and Ireland. In the US, Sacred Harp singing has taken root in university communities from Brown to Berkeley. It is open to all ages, informal, democratic and inclusive.

ArtYard is offering two sessions of facilitated Sacred Harp singing and one open sing. You can attend one session or all three. Each event will be followed by a potluck picnic dinner at ArtYard.

Workshop #1
Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 
Singing instruction from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Open Singing from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM followed by a community potluck.

Workshop #2
Saturday, April 6th, 2019
Singing instruction from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Open Singing 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM followed by a community potluck.

Open Sing and potluck
Sunday, May 19th, 2019
Join us for an afternoon open sing followed by a community potluck dinner. All are welcome regardless of ability. Bring the joy of singing together and something to share at the potluck.
4:00 – 6:00 pm: Sacred Harp Open Sing
6:00 – 7:00 pm: Potluck Dinner

About Gregory Corbino
Gregory Corbino has directed choral music for the Bread and Puppet theater productions for the past ten years. In his residence at Bread and Puppet, Gregory collaborated with Peter Schumann on dozens of musical productions, sourcing a wide range of music from Brecht/Eisler to the music of Hildegard. He has performed with Chinese Theater Works at the World Puppetry Conference in Chengdu China, devised an interpretation of Antigone in Athens, Greece with 40 artist/activists, and directed a puppet adaptation of Monteverdi’s Ulysses.   Other musical collaborations include Ensemble PI, Chinese Theater Works, Montreal Baroque Society, and Théâtre de l’Arc-en-Terre. 

In 2012, Gregory moved to New York City to work with Jennifer Miller’s Circus Amok, as a designer and performer touring the five boroughs in her queer circus spectacular. Since then he has worked as a performer and vocalist with many companies in and out of New York including John Heginbotham Dance, Redwing Blackbird Theater, Flying Donkey Theater, Cathy Weiss Productions, Cygnus Ensemble, and The Dolly Wagglers. In the past year, he has facilitated choral workshops with Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir in Dublin, Athens, and Zurich. As a vocalist, Gregory has performed in many international and domestic venues including Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Joes Pub at the Public Theater, Theater for the New City and the Skirball in NYC. 

You can sign up for Sacred Harp Singing School by clicking on the links below:

Workshop #1
Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 

Workshop #2
Saturday, April 6th, 2019

Open Sing and potluck
Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Thank you so much and I hope to see you there!

All the best, 

Jill

 

 

 

 

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