The Monadnock Folklore Society sponsors a regular schedule of Shape Note sings in Nelson. They are held on the first and third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m., and the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m.
Shape Note, also known as Sacred Harp, is a tradition that dates back to late 18th century America. Tunebooks were published to assist settlement-era residents to sing in the simple churches of the time, which had no piano, organ, or other instruments.
The most famous books of the time were written by Boston composer/singing-master William Billings and were engraved, printed, and published by Paul Revere.
The shaped notes help singers with no musical background to quickly learn to sing in harmony. This style of singing is participatory music, not performance music. Singers face each other in a hollow square with the parts -- treble, alto, tenor, bass -- on each side, and singers take turns leading songs. It has a distinctive sound: modal, open chords, octave doubling, and unusual harmonies. Shape Note is usually sung at full volume in an exuberant outpouring of sound and feeling.
Experienced singers will appreciate the chance to build sight-singing and pitching skills. New singers will experience the joy that comes from singing in harmony with others.
In November, the sings will be held on Nov. 7 and 21 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.
Admission is free, and loaner books are provided.
The Nelson Shape Note sings take place in the lower level of the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library in Nelson at 1 Nelson Common Road. For more information call 762-0235 or visit www.monadnockfolk.org. The Monadnock Folklore Society has presented contra dances and traditional music since 1982.