The 1st All-day Sacred Hap Singing in Clermont-Ferrand began when, a few months ago, I received a message from Georgia, USA, on my phone while having breakfast. In the message, David and Andy, two singers from Atlanta with whom I’ve been in contact for some time on social media and who I’d met in Cork in 2017, told me that they were going to the 5th Germany Sacred Harp Convention in Cologne, and suggested that they could come afterwards to support us here in Clermont the following weekend. After I told the news to the Paris Sacred Harp group they said they’d come and sing with us as well. That’s how the idea of an All-Day Singing in Clermont-Ferrand began to sprout.
The Sacred harp Auvergne singers were ok and ready to prepare for this special day, on June, 2, 2018.
The Chœur Canopée, my vocal ensemble, which sings its Sacred Songs from the New World, repertoire from the shape note tradition, had a concert date the night before the All-Day Singing.
Thanks to Philippe M., I could contact a lot of people to promote our double event on the local radio shows and in announcements in local newspapers : « come listen to these songs at the Chœur Canopée concert on Friday and then come sing them with us on Saturday ».
All went quickly then
Mary Jane, singer from NYC, came especially to support us, arriving on Thursday on the same train as Andy and David. I met them when they arrived to set the last details of the program for the weekend.
Chœur Canopée concert at the Chapelle du Bon Pasteur
It’s been a joy for me to see all these joyful people arriving from Paris, the USA, the UK and elsewhere; Werner from London (see articles – in French – here and there) and Geoff arrived right on time for the concert. Ciske, from the Netherlands, arrived just after the concert. It was a very stressful concert because for the first time we had an audience who actually knew a lot about our repertoire yet it was also a great pleasure to share our voices and harmonies and our renditions of these songs with them.
The day after the concert, we had to set up everything at the venue for the All-Day, and remember everything we were bringing from home. The Auvergne singers arrived and moved quickly to get things ready on time. At 10:15, the hollow square, the committees, the food and the posters for the singing school were all ready.
And we took off like a rocket !
A whole full day of singing during which my feet barely touched the ground, lifted by the harmonies, vocal intensity and the warmth of the people attending including curious people coming thanks to the media announcements or who had attended a Chœur Canopée concert recently and came to see this « other way of singing a cappella polyphony ». They were here for the first time to discover and share with more experienced singers the intense and strong harmonies which sound like the echo of an ancient past. All the attendees wanted everything to be fine for each others and so it was!
During the singing school, David and Andy took turns with each other to give information about the history of the Sacred Harp (more information in French here), from its beginning to its emergence as a social practice, they explained clearly the famous shape notes and their geometrical shapes and the link between the syllable, the geometrical shape and the sound they represent (know more in French here) every singer does when singing them. Thanks to their and the other more experienced singers’ energy, the newcomers could discover and practice in the best way this simplification of musical notation, that opens wide the doors of these musics.
The « dinner on the grounds » prepared by local singers and completed by other attendees was enough for everyone – phew !
The singing resumed at 2 pm
Tireless and always forthcoming, Andy and David were singing and leading the energy of the group and by doing this transmitting their experience of the Sacred Harp. All of this under a heat almost as stifling as in the South.
Then, after the official end to the All-Day, we went to sing a few more songs (slower ones) at nearby St-Eutrope Church to enjoy their accoustics. Thus we had a new exciting and harmonic moment, with the added enjoyment of cool air.
After that, everyone left to get some rest before the evening meal. We ate together at the restaurant, where we sang a bit more to end this beautiful day in style.
Lecoq Garden and LieUtopie
On Sunday, when we arrived at Lecoq garden for the singing picnic, we found the gates closed because of a predicted storm (that never came). Thanks to Léna, we could go to LieUtopie, a nice welcoming place near the Lecoq garden. We improvised a picnic on the tables in the main room then had some instrumental music with Léopoldine, Ciske, Florent and Phil, jazz, bluegrass, Irish folk music… eventually getting back to Sacred Harp with a free call session.
I belong to this band, hallelujah!
As the strong and intense voices and harmonies sounded and it was deeply refreshing, as if they balanced the little everyday events that would like to make us believe that they’re the everything of life. These voices, the singers’ commitment to their singing and the songs we sang this weekend made me look further from everyday life, and see a place of open sharing and caring, without expecting anything in return, where everyone wants to share freely a moment that is beautiful for all.
As the last song is called, 347 Christian’s Farewell, we sang it standing, with goosebumps, and for some, including myself, with tears in our eyes. The simple act of singing together with old friends and new friends, of different generations and origins, etc., it seems to me that we’re linked to the Sacred Harp community, through time and space.
Thank you to David B. and Andy D., to Mary Jane W., Geoff G. and Ciske B., thank you to the Sacred Harp Paris singers who came in great number to support us, to all the people who came to discover the Sacred Harp during this special day, to those who prepared and/or brought something to eat for the dinner on the grounds lunch and to those such Radio Arverne and RCF, who spread the word about these events. Special thanks to Connie DM for singing and correcting this translation.
See you next year!
For our next singings in Clermont, see this page.