Never heard of Sacred Harp singing? The musical tradition is a part of a larger history, often referred to as shape-note singing. The technique uses shapes in addition to notes to help singers identify them on the musical scale. Sacred Harp emerged within Southern congregations during the mid-1800s (shape-note singing itself dates as far back as 1000 AD).
Though the music-reading technique is old, shape-note and Sacred Harp singing is still alive today (chorale clubs can be found in Chicago, California, New York, and many places in-between).
Tim Eriksen is an example of a performer that continues to successful tour playing music within the genre. In recent years his music has been in the feature film, Cold Mountain. He has also taught shape note to musicians and actors, including Sting, Nicole Kidman, and Elvis Costello. He has shared a stage with Jack White, Kurt Cobain, and Alison Kraus, among many others.
Ericksen plays the Cedar (416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674) tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 at the door. His latest album, Northern Roots Live in Námešt (Indies Scope), is a mix of old New England tunes and Sacred Harp.
Sound interesting? Check out these videos of Tim Ericksen performing at various venues, including nature. (Photos by Michael Murphree)