Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Belfast Singing School and All-Day Singing Weekend

All Souls’ Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland

October 14-16, 2011

Friday, October 14

The first Belfast Singing Weekend was sponsored by the Belfast Traditional Music and Dance Society. William Duddy, treasurer of the society, introduced Belfast Trad president Peter Woods, event organizer Barton Creeth, and singing master Aldo Thomas Ceresa.

Aldo gave a brief introduction to the history, music, and practice of Sacred Harp singing, and offered some personal comments. He then introduced the four shape notes and the major scale, and the class practiced singing the various intervals. Aldo discussed the importance of dispersed harmony in Sacred Harp, and the class practiced singing harmony in thirds. Aldo explained the difference between the major and minor scales. The class then sang the minor scale. Aldo pointed out the importance of the three “departments” of music in Sacred Harp: time, tune, and accent. He then introduced the notes and rests, and explained the modes of time. The class sang the exercises on pp. 15-16 of the Rudiments to learn the time signatures, practice beating time, and focus on accent.


Aldo Ceresa called the class back to order by leading 159. He then encouraged the class to sing out and not be discouraged by the difficulty of reading unfamiliar songs, but to do their best. The class practiced accenting in 4/4 by speaking the words of 159, and then sang 159 again. The class continued to practice singing and accenting in the various time signatures, singing 49b, 45t, 274t, 145t, and 282. Aldo offered commentary between songs and gave a brief introduction to the form and history of the fuging tune. Al McCready led 155 and Rob Wedgbury led 209 as examples. Aldo led 542 (by request), 203, 318, and 142, again stressing accent and the importance of beating time clearly. Al McCready led 84 (for Rodrigo Francisco). Aldo pointed out Scots-Irish musical influences in the Sacred Harp, and then led 179. Aldo explained the importance of learning the words and music of 62, as it is often used as a closing song, and then led 62. Aldo led 448t (by request of Barton Creeth). William Duddy thanked the class, and recognized those who had driven from Cork and from Scotland, then dismissed the class.

Saturday, October 15

The class was called to order by Aldo Ceresa leading 59. William Duddy made a few opening remarks and introduced Aldo. Aldo greeted the class and gave a brief review of the history, practice and musical origins of Sacred Harp. He then explained the importance and function of the four shape notes and fasola scale. The class then sang the major scale. Aldo mentioned the importance of singing in a full voice without shouting or screaming, and of beating time, especially for the front bench tenors. He then explained the seating, staff placement, and function of the four voice parts. He also explained the preference (but not necessity) of singing tenor while leading. Aldo introduced the minor scale, which the class then sang. Aldo introduced the notes and rests. The class practiced the various time signatures, using the exercises on pp. 15-16 of the Rudiments. The class sang 39t (first in parts, then all together). Aldo gave further instruction in singing, keeping time and accent, with special emphasis on fuging tunes.

Leaders: Patrick Paglen 107; Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn and Aldo Ceresa 300; Mike Nord 276; Al McCready 155; Aldo Ceresa 36t (by request of Pauline Hyde); Rob Wedgbury 440; Aldo Ceresa 441, 550. Aldo explained the meaning of the song titles and text meter indications, and then sang 68b (by request of Barton Creeth).


Mike Morrisroe called the afternoon session to order leading 159.

Aldo continued the singing school by leading 277, then relayed Buell Cobb’s story about an Alabama boy who came home from the Civil War to a rejoicing father who thought the boy had been killed three years earlier. (Upon recognizing his son walking toward him, the boy’s father immediately began singing 277, “the dead’s alive and the lost is found.”) The class then continued by practicing accenting and beating time in 3, singing 47b (by request), 229, 348b, 565, 278t, and 77b (giving special attention to the rests in 77b). Aldo gave further instruction in singing, keeping time, and leading as the singers took turns choosing and leading songs.

Leaders: Rob Wedgbury 383; Declan Synnott 106; Chris McCall 84; Mike Morrisroe 481; Patrick Paglen 142; Kev Kennedy 213b; Eamonn O’Neill 504; Lisa O’Grady 209; Vicky Langan 547; Amanda Parkes 181; Eimear O’Donovan 569b; Barton Creeth 122 (by request of Ruth Clinton).


Barton Creeth called the class back to order by leading 274t. Leaders: Pauline Hyde 163b; Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn 500; Mike Nord 558; Daire O’Sullivan 65; Barton Creeth 105; Al McCready 452 (by request of William Duddy); Chris McCall and Ewan Paterson 117; Eimear Cradock and Geraldine Coghlan 318; Dara Ni Dheasinaigh and Shane McGrath 335; Joseph McGilloway 38b; Vicky Langan and Aldo Ceresa 430; Aldo Ceresa and Meabh Meir 112; Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn and Daire O’Sullivan 455; Aldo Ceresa 456; Eimear O’Donovan and Aldo Ceresa 507.

Aldo Ceresa led 414 as the closing song, and the class was dismissed.

Sunday, November 16

The class was called to order by Aldo Ceresa leading 47t. Leaders: Al McCready 178; Aldo Ceresa 31t; Rob Wedgbury 37b; Declan Synnott 268; Mike Nord 70t; Vicky Langan 288; Al McCready 347. The singers then moved to the All Souls’ Church sanctuary to give a demonstration singing for the congregation. Twenty-three singers from Ireland, the UK, and the USA participated. Aldo offered commentary between the following songs: 49t, 274t, 47b, 155, 430, 65, 503, and 236. The singers were well received by the congregation and the minister, Rev. Chris Hudson.


Aldo Ceresa brought the afternoon session to order by leading 101t.

Leaders: Mike Morrisroe and Mike Nord 271t; Rob Wedgbury 148; Kev Kennedy 317; Declan Synnott 203; Vicky Langan 269; Patrick Paglen 196; Lisa O’Grady and Amanda Parkes 48b; Pauline Hyde 209; Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn 254; William Duddy and Aldo Ceresa 47b.


Aldo Ceresa brought the class back to order by leading 106. Leaders: Aldo Ceresa 344 (by request of Daire O’Sullivan); Barton Creeth 142; Mike Nord 89; Eimear Cradock and Irial O Ceallaigh 168; Irial O Ceallaigh and Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn 282; Daire O’Sullivan 29b; Joseph McGilloway 38b; Aldo Ceresa 68t; Aldo Ceresa, Ciara Wimberly, and family 159; Mike Nord 319; Mike Morrisroe and Eimear O’Donovan 183; Sadhbh Ní Fhloinn 384.

Aldo Ceresa thanked the class, giving special recognition to the Cork singers, to Barton Creeth, and William Duddy for their organizational efforts. He then presented Peter Woods with a copy of 1991 edition of The Sacred Harp. William Duddy thanked Aldo and the class.

Aldo Ceresa led 62 as the closing song. The closing prayer was offered by Father Joseph McGilloway, and the class was dismissed.

Chairman—Aldo Ceresa; Vice Chairman—Barton Creeth; Secretary—Eimear O’Donovan