So, you want to hold a Scarèd Harp sing, but you don't know how?
It's easier than you might think!
How to hold a Scarèd Harp sing.
(If you do hold a Scarèd Harp sing, please
let me know
how it went!)
Rehearsal vs. "Sing"
I like the idea of scheduling two separate sessions:
first, hold a "rehearsal" session of perhaps one to two
hours during which individual parts will be taught.
After a break (or possibly the next day), hold a "sing" session
in which the songs are sung without any teaching or or rehearsing.
This approach ensures that beginners get the practice they need,
and experienced singers can participate without getting bored.
If any one session runs more than an hour, schedule a 5 or 10 minute
break in the middle.
Arrange chairs in a "hollow square" or in concentric circles so that
all the singers are facing the center.
Allow enough room so that people can stand up, and easily get in and out.
Where you put the four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) isn't important
as long as everyone that's singing the same part is seated together.
If you use a hollow square, each side of the square should contain one
of the parts.
The traditional arrangement is (going clockwise) soprano (treble), tenor,
The hollow square or circle is a key part aspect of both The Scarèd Harp
and The Sacred Harp. The singers are not singing for an audience, or
for a director, but for themselves and each other.
If you're using a keyboard for going over parts, place it in or near
the center of the square or circle of chairs so that everyone can hear
it equally well.
Before singing any songs or going over any parts, do the following:
- Make sure everyone has water, or knows where to get it.
Water should be available in the room. Keeping hydrated
is one of the most important things you can do for your voice
(not to mention the rest of your body).
- Do some stretching and deep breathing. Question: what part of
your body do you use when you sing? Answer: all of it!
- If you choose, mark the beginning of the session with a short
prayer or other ritual.
- Do some vocal warmups. Somebody there will certainly know some.
Make sure everyone is singing "ah" with wide open mouths.
Spend about 10% of your session time doing warmups, unless
everyone already warmed up earlier the same day.
Learning the Parts
It's ideal to have someone with at least enough keyboard skills to play at least
one part at a time, if not all four together.
If you have a few good sight-readers on each part (or people who already know
their parts), then the keyboard is less important.
In the absence of a piano, a flute or recorder could be used instead.
It's important to have some sort of pitch reference so that you're singing
at least close to the right key; otherwise half the singers will be trying
to sing too high or too low.
Here's one formula for success:
- Go over the melody first (soprano or tenor, depending on the song).
Sing it through once or twice.
- Go over the bass part once or twice.
- Have just the melody and bass parts sing together.
- Go over the highest part that hasn't already been sung (i.e. soprano or alto).
- Sing that highest part with the melody (just those two parts).
- Sing that highest part with the bass (just those two parts).
- Wake up the section that hasn't sung yet (tenor or alto) and go over that
part once or twice.
- Sing that last part with the melody (just those two parts).
- Sing that last part with the bass (just those two parts).
- Put 'em all together and sing one verse!
If the singers are good, you can try just going over each individual part
once or twice and then putting them all together.
In any case, after singing the first verse with all four parts, stop
and ask if anyone wants to go over any parts.
Then run through the whole song.
Here are some other points to keep in mind:
- For longer songs, don't try to learn the whole thing at once.
Take one stanza at a time and repeat the steps given above for each stanza.
- Start out by singing slowly, especially for those songs that want to be sung fast.
Learn the notes first and speed it up later.
- Consider learning the notes using the syllable "la" rather than words. Some people prefer
this approach, though others do not.
- Praise the singers! Tell them how good they're doing! It's usually not necessary
to point out mistakes, especially glaring ones; people will usually know when
they've made a mistake. Just go over the problem spots as needed.
- People should not be talking while going over parts; this is disruptive and
inconsiderate of those who are learning their parts.
Yes, I know that this is a socal event; if you must socialize, do so
in quiet whispers.
Don't worry about directing technique.
After making sure that everyone has their starting note,
set the beat for one or two measures by counting out loud,
accompanied (if you like) by some clear arm motion giving the beat.
In the Sacred Harp tradition, beats are given simply by
moving one arm up and down.
At the beginning of each verse, use some hand and arm motion to help everyone
Move your whole arm, not just your hand, so that everyone can see it clearly.
|This page was last updated on 22 July 2003.