The Northeast Kingdom Shape Note Sings begin this summer's season on July 2 at 7:30 p.m., and continue every Tuesday evening all July and August. They are held in the Paper-Mache Cathedral behind the Museum on the Bread & Puppet Farm, Rt. 122 in Glover.
Members of Bread & Puppet Theater first learned this early American music when they moved to Vermont in 1970. Shape Note music originated in New England during the Revolution, but migrated southward in the ensuing decades and was quite forgotten here until a revival of Shape Note sings swept across the country in the 1970s. Itinerant, self-taught musicians composed the songs, often using familiar tunes-- ballads, jigs, even drinking songs-- and set them to the fiery religious poetry of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. The three- and four-part harmonies have a hard-edged, archaic quality that is distinctly different from sweet-sounding church hymns.
At the Northeast Kingdom Sings, sheet music and some basic instruction are provided, and those unfamiliar with the Sacred Harp (the main collection of Shape Note music used here), soon find they can join in the chorus. All are welcome. The event is free.