On Friday 27 November 2015 at 6.30pm we're having a Sacred Harp Thanksgiving.
So yeah I am still hesitant to call it a "Thanksgiving Singing" because there's that other thing, you know, food and stuff ... Very distracting ...
Anyway we want to sing but we also just want to sit and eat together. And we want to invite friends to come (perhaps those who are a bit suspicious of that whole cult music thing we're doing).
We'll soon set up a list so that we can organise a bit who is bringing what. (Talk to Julia Sievert and Tobias Saalmann or comment here below!)
First of all: We love the flyer for the 2nd Germany Sacred Harp Convention which will take place at the Pentecost weekend (23-24 May 2015) in Bremen. See also details here.
We'll all go! And you: Go there if you want to experience what Sacred Harp is about. (And I don't mean only the music.)
Then: So many things have happened. For example: Laura moved to Mannheim and is now with the Frankfurt singing community. Tobias who was part of the Frankfurt group moved to Hamburg. So we don't really know what to do with all these different emotions!
Also in the meantime there was the road trip to Munich where we all (from Bremen, Hamburg and Frankfurt) did a workshop. Do you know how happy we are that folks down there continue meeting as Sacred Harp Munich?
In March was the road trip to Cologne. We fell in love with this city. Wish an autonomous singing community would start there. It's cum grano salis in the middle between Hamburg and Frankfurt ...
Don't wait for new blog posts though if you want to know more. Come and join us on a Tuesday night. (Did I mention we meet every Tuesday at 20:00 hrs at the "Englische Kirche" in Hamburg?) Or get in contact with us via Facebook or Twitter.
When the acting chairman got up to make the final speech at the end of the First German Sacred Harp Convention, the energy in the Chapel of the Ecumenical Forum in the Hafencity was palpable. The time was 4pm on Sunday, 1st of June, 2014. After two days of non-stop singing, the silence that engulfed the room after the last song was arguably the most stirring sound of the entire event. Of course, I cannot tell what the other people in the room were thinking at that particular moment, but there appeared to be a general, thitherto unarticulated, consensus that something very special had just come to an end.
The dry facts, which state that 67 people, from 11 different countries, sang 187 Sacred Harp songs during the convention weekend, are impressive enough. However, it is not possible to distil the most important information about the convention from the official minutes. No one, for example, recorded how many jokes were told, how many times people laughed, how many hugs and kisses were exchanged or even how many tears were shed. The official documents do not record the interaction between the visitors and the locals, and the amount of effort people put into making the convention a resounding success.
When the announcement was made (at the end of November 2013) that the first ever Sacred Harp convention in Germany was to be held in Hamburg in May 2014, many of us were a little shocked. Hamburg Sacred Harp had only existed since August 2013. The group’s links to the wider Sacred Harp community were tenuous, at best, and we were certainly not familiar with the highly sophisticated and rather intimidating minutiae of Sacred Harp etiquette. None of the Hamburg singers had ever been to a Sacred Harp convention before – let alone staged one. Furthermore, the future of the Hamburg group itself was still rather precarious. In fact, I can remember attending “singings”, shortly before Christmas 2013, where only two other people were present. Under these circumstances, it seemed somewhat ill-advised, if not altogether foolish, to think we could master such a complicated logistical and socio-political undertaking.
Fortunately, however, we were not alone. Our friends and partners in Bremen and Frankfurt were there to offer soothing advice as well as the necessary manpower. Sacred Harp Bremen, which has been active since 2011, had already staged an “all-day singing” in 2012, and was, therefore, our main reference point when it came to convention logistics. Moreover, singers from both the Bremen and Frankfurt groups (founded in 2012) had travelled extensively to attend singings all over Europe and North America, and were, therefore, more familiar with the demands of Sacred Harp tradition than we were. Their knowledge and expertise was invaluable for the planning and execution of the convention in Hamburg.
Of course, not everything went according to plan and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise. Initially, many of us felt overwhelmed by the nature and magnitude of the project and it soon became apparent that we would not have time to submit every single decision to egalitarian deliberation. As a result, well meant suggestions were ignored, emails went unanswered and democratically conceived plans were abandoned in favour of more practicable autocratic solutions. However, I consider it a measure of our trust and commitment to the common cause that we all managed to negotiate a minefield of potentially volatile sensitivities without losing our humour and mutual respect. The bond between the various Sacred Harp communities in Germany has been strengthened by the shared experience and I consider it a great privilege to have been part of the team that organised the First German Sacred Harp Convention.
Indeed, the success of the convention was reliant on the goodwill and support of many people, none more so than those who volunteered to host the visiting singers. It is obvious from the overwhelming stream of positive feedback we have received (and are still receiving) that everyone was made to feel welcome and comfortable in Hamburg. More than anything, it is testimony to the hospitality of our hosts that so many of our visitors have expressed a desire to revisit Hamburg as soon as possible. On behalf of the Sacred Harp community, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all those who offered our guests accommodation during the convention.
Apart from the singing and the accommodation, it was almost impossible not to be impressed with the so-called “dinner-on-the-grounds” at the First German Sacred Harp Convention. It is Sacred Harp tradition for the convention hosts to provide food and drink for the visiting singers. However, it was still not clear whether we could feed our guests up until the very last days before the event. By that time, the organising committee had more or less deferred responsibility for the provision of sustenance to the gods. Certainly, none of us expected the miraculous feast that led one experienced American Sacred Harp singer to declare that it was the best dinner-on-the-grounds he had ever seen outside the southern states of America. Frankly, I have got no idea where all the food came from but it turned out to be a truly wondrous spread. I would like to thank everyone who contributed. However, in this regard, Jutta Boysen deserves particular credit, as she worked tirelessly to coordinate the food at a time when many of us considered it to be a bit of a lost cause. Thankfully, she proved us all wrong.
I learned a great deal about Sacred Harp singing during the convention, just by listening to more experienced members of the community. It became apparent, as one of the visiting singers suggested, that there is much more to Sacred Harp singing than just singing. Of course, the shared experience of the communal song is central to the whole venture, and the likelihood of spontaneous polyphonic a-cappella outbursts seems to increase in proportion to the number of singers in the room – a phenomenon that could be studied in Hamburg’s cafes, bars and public transport system throughout the convention weekend.
Raising your voice to sing from the stirring Sacred Harp collection can be an uplifting experience at the best of times. However, when you do it together with nearly seventy other people, the effect can be quite overwhelming. A sense of community is integral to the Sacred Harp experience and the informal “social” evening, which is traditionally held on the first night of the convention, is designed to foster cohesion by encouraging social interaction between locals and the foreign singers. Remarkably, the group did appear to become more homogenous, and the singing more intense, on the second day of the convention.
The social evening in Hamburg was held in a studio space in the Chemnitzstraße, which was offered to us, free of charge, by the local artist Andreas Oldörp. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mr Oldörp, on behalf of the Sacred Harp community, for his selfless support throughout the convention. With regard to the social evening, I would also like to thank O.G. Joachimsson for allowing us a preview of his remarkable documentary about the formation and development of Sacred Harp Bremen. The film, which has not yet been officially released, was shown for the first time on the Saturday night, and it added a unique flavour to the proceedings.
There were many highlights during the First German Sacred Harp Convention 2014. However, I would like to accentuate the role of our Chaplain, Zack Lindahl, who came all the way from Enånger (Sweden) to conduct prayers and offer blessings. I would also like to thank Michael Walker, from Sacred Harp London, who conducted the traditional lesson in recognition of the sick and housebound. In a thought provoking speech, Michael emphasised the therapeutic properties of meditation and the state of “loving kindness” (the title of a Sacred Harp song) as a central precondition for a healthy relationship with one’s surrounding environment.
If I had to choose one particular standout moment during the convention weekend, however, it would have to be Calum’s memorial lesson for the deceased, and the rousing rendition of the song that directly followed it. It was always going to be a risk to entrust such a weighty task as honouring the recently deceased to a sixteen year-old. However, Calum managed to win everyone’s respect and affection with his unique honesty and profound sensitivity. Many people, including myself, were deeply moved by his words, which seemed to galvanise the group, lending it even more unity and vigour during the subsequent singing session.
To conclude, I would like to thank all those involved in making the Hamburg convention such a success. The feeling of unselfish goodwill and camaraderie among the singers, organisers and ancillary helpers will be something I will never forget. In many ways, the convention felt like a blueprint for a better society – one in which differences of opinion were not brushed aside but openly discussed, and even modified, in a spirit of mutual respect. The Americans sang with the Europeans, the Atheists with the believers, the traditionalists with the reformists and we all learned from each other. Where disparities did seem insurmountable, we agreed to disagree, and the diversity was accommodated within the compliant and tolerant structure of the community. In my opinion, Sacred Harp is capable of absorbing all sorts of ideas, because, ultimately, the singers know that they are reliant on each other’s voices to create that explicitly divine noise.
There's no singing on Tuesday, 15 April. Nevertheless you can sing in that week: Our friends in Bremen are doing a Half-Day Singing on Good Friday, 18 April at 2pm. For more information please contact Harald.
By the way, here are some more (this time: professional) shots from the Sacred Harp presentation at the art exhibition last month. The photographs are by Gisela, please contact her, if you'd like to use them anywhere.
Last Saturday two singers from Hamburg joined the Bremen group at Kulturhaus Walle. It was great fun to sing together. So it's again your turn to come and visit us then, Bremen, isn't it?
What did we do wrong? The visitors were enthusiastic about what they heard! Here are recordings of our singing session at an art gallery in Hafencity last Saturday. The bell sounds are from the gallery owner's poodle. It was so much fun but also very exhausting. Thanks to everyone who came - expecially from Bremen and from Frankfurt!
We're looking forward to doing something similar at Kulturhaus Walle with our Bremen friends this Saturday 5 April. It'll start at 8pm and the Hamburg singers will probably take a train to get there. If you want to join us please contact Yotin
You might have noticed that exciting things are happening this year in Northern Germany: The First Germany Sacred Harp Singing Convention will be a weekend (31 May and 1 June) of singing together with friends from all over the world. You'll find all the information here.
We need a lot of help here in Hamburg. For example we are looking for friends who could host singers from abroad. So if you have a place to sleep please contact Philip via firstname.lastname@example.org
(Later in some months we'll ask you to donate food then ...)
In two weeks time there will be another exciting event already: We'll sing at an art event in Hafencity on Saturday 29 March at 7pm. So this is another chance to see what we're doing. I guess that will also teach you that it might be be more fun to join in singing rather than listening to the noise. This is the invitation:
We'll meet up on Sunday, 29th December with friends from Bremen, Norwich, Frankfurt, Leipzig and London for an informal singing. At the moment we have two venues fixed:
Everyone is invited to come and sing. Or just to come and listen!
If you're coming in the morning please bring a sandwich or something for lunch.
There was a moment three weeks ago when we had a moment of “Oh wow, that sounds good!” - but it was still very much reserved. So a week later one of us (the only one singing treble) remarked: “Now, I bet you can’t sing louder than me!” which caused a sound eruption. This week then we had very special friends visiting us (Eva from Bremen, Emma and Lewis from Norwich) who called for fuging tunes. The Hamburg newbies accepted the challenge! And some of us might have discovered their bass voice potential … Ah, things are going well at the Hamburg Sacred Harp Singing School.
In case you have missed it: Yotin got three minutes on the local radio (NDR 90,3) to invite everyone to come and sing with us. Also: This Sunday (10th November, 12.30pm) we have an extra meeting: It’ll start with a shared lunch, followed by singing a bit and then watching “Awake, my soul”, a documentary about the Sacred Harp tradition. We meet at the Anglican chaplain’s flat: Matthew Jones, Englische Planke 1a, 20459 Hamburg.
Thank you, Michael, for teaching with so much well-informed knowledge and challenging us to try also the rough stuff! And to the new singers: It was great meeting you! We should do that again!
The Hamburg group meets every Tuesday at 8pm. Since many of the Hamburg singers are new to this as well we keep practising to sing the shapes. It's a good opportunity for newbies to join us!
Below is a picture from the workshop as well as an audio file with "Eternal Day" (Sacred Harp 383) a certain Swedish participant called in the afternoon.