Saturday morning I skipped out on a bunch of gardening chores that Laura had lined up for me and went to a shape note singing at Furman. When I arrived, there were about thirty singers already in their open square configuration, singing away.
Unlike the William Walker Memorial Singing at Wofford a couple of months ago, this event was held in a room designed for singing. The sound in Herring Hall (where the Greenville Chorale rehearses) was much more resonant, and the tunes sounded much better than they did in the dead room at Wofford.
The group started singing from the Southern Harmony, which has the more traditional do-re-mi scale. Even so, I struggled with the note names on the initial sing-through, and wound up singing “la” for most of the notes. For the second hour of the morning, they switched to the Sacred Harp, which uses the four-shape fa-so-la scale. It was much harder, and I never really got the hang of the note names. There was a break when we switched from one tune book to the other, and I had a chance to talk with several of the singers. I was told that Southern Harmony tends to be a bit more subdued, whereas Sacred Harp singing is always more raucous. Even though the notes were more difficult for me, I was up for high-energy raucous singing.