History

Sacred Harp in the UK and Europe

Sacred Harp singing is a form of traditional, unaccompanied community harmony singing. The tradition as we know it today comes from the Southern states of America, but the music can trace its roots to a number of places and time periods.

Our tradition knows neither rehearsal nor performance, and, like our Convention, is open to all – regardless of background, age, religious belief or musical experience.

The UK has a thriving Sacred Harp community, and events are held up and down the country throughout the year. The United Kingdom Convention has been held annually since 1996 and is one of the largest Sacred Harp singings outside the United States.

Our 2020 convention will draw together singers old and new, young and old, from across the British Isles and from further afield, for a weekend of singing, friendship and fellowship.

Find out more about Sacred Harp music on Wikipedia.

The history of the UK Sacred Harp Convention

In 1996, the first two day singings – known as Shapenote Conventions – were held. For the first three years, the conventions were two book singings using The Sacred Harp (Denson Edition, 1991) and The Northern Harmony, and aimed at attracting those who had been taught by Larry Gordon and introduced to Northern Harmony shape note music. Since 1999, the convention has been a single book singing, using The Sacred Harp (Denson Edition, 1991).

YearLocationChair(s)
11996Hitchin, HertfordshireSteve Fletcher
21997Hitchin, HertfordshireJudy Whiting
31998Beeston, NottinghamshireDavid Cooper
41999Beeston, NottinghamshireDavid Cooper
52000Beeston, NottinghamshireDavid Cooper
62001Cumnor, OxfordEdwin Macadam and Sheila Girling Macadam
72002Cumnor, OxfordEdwin Macadam and Sheila Girling Macadam
82003Cumnor, OxfordEdwin Macadam
92004Letchworth, HertfordshireKen Baddley
102005Letchworth, HertfordshireKen Baddley
112006Witney, OxonMandy Townsend
122007Witney, OxonMandy Townsend
132008Marsden, West YorkshireJudy Whiting and Chris Brown
142009Marsden, West YorkshireJudy Whiting and Chris Brown
152010Weedon Bec, NorthamptonshireMick Verrier
162011Stannington, South YorkshireSarah West
172012Winnersh, BerkshireMichael Walker
182013Framwellgate, County DurhamCath Tyler
192014Stannington, South YorkshireHannah Land
202015LondonErin Johnson-Hill
212016BristolMatthew Parkinson
222017Stannington, South YorkshireVicki Elliot
232018Brighton and HoveCatherine Roberts
242019BristolSteve Brett
252020DerbyHelen Brown

The East Midlands Sacred Harp Convention

The East Midlands Sacred Harp Convention was founded in 2002 by Helen Brown, Ruth Steggles and Ian West, who felt that Sacred Harp singing in this country had grown strong enough to support a second two day singing.

A two day Convention has the potential for greater variety in pace and more flexibility in programming than a one day singing. This has allowed innovations such as the use of a second song book – The Sacred Harp (Revised Cooper Edition, 2012 – alongside The Sacred Harp (Denson Edition, 1991).

The East Midlands Convention continues to be held every year on the fourth Sunday in April and the Saturday before, at the Village Hall, Kegworth, Leicestershire.

Local Singings in the UK and Europe

Singers meet regularly all around the UK and Europe. For more information, visit the UK Sacred Harp Calendar website.

For more information about the Sacred Harp book itself, visit the Sacred Harp Publishing Company website.