By Debbonnaire Kovacs, 1-5-17
Shape note singing arose in early America as a means of teaching singing to people without formal musical training. It is sung entirely for the joy of singing, rarely for performance, and is universally religious in tone, though groups often include large numbers of people who are not necessarily Christians. They just like the style and the singing.
Each note is on its proper place on the musical staff, so people who read music may do so as usual, but those who don’t can learn by ear to recognize the intervals between the tones. Each shape has a name: fa, sol, la, or mi, and over time, singing with others, even children learn to sing a completely new piece of music in four part harmony within minutes. First the group sings the shapes on their line (treble, or soprano, which is a counter melody, alto, tenor, which is the melody, and bass) by shape names, to learn the tune. Then they sing the words. You can listen to an example here. This is the group mentioned in our Feature this week about Foothills Community Seventh-day Adventist Church.