History Matter series - A concert with Norumbega Harmony

shape-note musical notation
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Speaker: Stephen Marini

Sacred Song in Revolutionary Boston: William Billings and Oliver Holden

With names like Hatfield, Lynn, Walpole, and Woburn you would think that you'd be looking at a map of Massachusetts. Then you spot Maryland, Pennsylvania, Cortona, and Bethlehem and you are off on a trip around the world. Not always.

When these names appear on Sweet Seraphic Fire, Norumbega Harmony's 2005 album, they point to delightful short songs from early New England (often titled from the composer's hometown). The singing group's style is called Sacred Harp, and it performs works by America's earliest itinerant singing masters. Those masters' schools comprised the principle form of music education in the Republic's early days. From four-part hymns called "plain tunes" and lively "fuging tunes" with independent lines for each part, the music is complex and inventive, and world respected Norumbega Harmony know how to make them come alive.

Stephen Marini, the singing master of Norumbega Harmony, is also the Elisabeth Luce Moore Professor of Christian Studies and Professor of American Religion and Ethics at Wellesley College. Professor Marini's research concentrates in three areas: religion in Revolutionary America, the history of sectarian religion, and the sacred arts in America.

Our hymnal collection includes several rare tune books from the 18th century, including The Easy Instructor by William Little and William Smith, which popularized the shape note muscial notation method used by many 19th-century singing masters.

Wednesday, May 13th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

Read more about Norumbega Harmony and listen to samples of their music in the Winter 2013 issue of Common-Place.

Sweet Seraphic Fire is available digitally through iTunes and New World Records.

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