Film » Film: Previews and Reviews

Awake, My Soul

A documentary about the history of "shape note" music in America


One of the unsung traditions of American religious music is that of the "sacred harp" or harmonic a cappella singing. The music is still popular in the South, from Georgia to Texas, but its roots stretch back to the late 1700s and northeastern colonies, where some of the first composers in the colonies wrote sacred harp music. It is also referred to as "shape note" music because its relatively accessible notation can be written with simple shapes ascending the octaves. It offers a very easy way for minimally trained singers to produce rousing choral music. Director Matt Hinton's film visits congregations who find shape singing to be an ecstatic experience, and through a few of its fans and songwriters, he traces its history in the United States and to religious traditions in Europe. It's clear that experiencing the group singing is a strong component of its allure, and that may help explain how its tradition has remained vibrant in small rural churches, below the radar of media exposure and the outside world. Hinton will attend the screening. Free admission. — Will Coviello

March 11

Awake, My Soul

6 p.m. Friday

Fair Grounds Coffeehouse, 3133 Ponce de Leon St.;

Add a comment