Shape Note Singing: David Lee

music: David Lee singing


We’re in southeastern Georgia, listening to a music called Shape-note, or Sacred Harp, singing. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

For David Lee, this has been a family tradition generations.

music: “Canaan Land”

“My children are sixth-generation Sacred Harp singers. Great-great Grandpa John was singing Sacred Harp. That would’ve taken our family back into the middle 1800’s. Everybody in our family sang, everybody.”

In Sacred Harp singing, the written notes have different shapes so that they can be sung by people who don’t read music. The singers face each other in a circle or square and always sing a cappella. It’s a style of hymn-singing that most folks have never even heard. But for David Lee’s family in Hoboken, Georgia, Sacred Harp is a way of life.

“We didn’t have any other kind of music. I was raised in a home without radios and without televisions. I remember singing on the front porch, when the men were sitting around before or after supper, and the women would come out on the porch to help them. I remember singing by the water’s edge at the river during baptism, as a young boy. I can remember, of course, singing at funerals as a young boy, and being affected by it, and then, being in church and singing.”

David Lee now heads a monthly singing school to make sure that folks remember how to sing Sacred harp. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.


Shape Note Singing: David Lee

David Lee is a fifth-generation singer of Shape-note, a method of singing hymns in which the different notes are represented by shapes.
Air Date:11/21/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

music: David Lee singing


We're in southeastern Georgia, listening to a music called Shape-note, or Sacred Harp, singing. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

For David Lee, this has been a family tradition generations.

music: "Canaan Land"

"My children are sixth-generation Sacred Harp singers. Great-great Grandpa John was singing Sacred Harp. That would've taken our family back into the middle 1800's. Everybody in our family sang, everybody."

In Sacred Harp singing, the written notes have different shapes so that they can be sung by people who don't read music. The singers face each other in a circle or square and always sing a cappella. It's a style of hymn-singing that most folks have never even heard. But for David Lee's family in Hoboken, Georgia, Sacred Harp is a way of life.

"We didn't have any other kind of music. I was raised in a home without radios and without televisions. I remember singing on the front porch, when the men were sitting around before or after supper, and the women would come out on the porch to help them. I remember singing by the water's edge at the river during baptism, as a young boy. I can remember, of course, singing at funerals as a young boy, and being affected by it, and then, being in church and singing."

David Lee now heads a monthly singing school to make sure that folks remember how to sing Sacred harp. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.