The O-town Scene

March 07, 2014

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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A9 the spiritual oomph I get out of it. And it is oomph. It totally gives you that thing that you are looking for; that feeling of tran- scendence in community. You take a whole bunch of people who are ratchety and weird-sounding, and then suddenly you're all ratchety and weird-sounding together, but there's something more there, too. It becomes beautiful." If Reischel was a reluctant convert to Sacred Harp singing, Harris was a willing acolyte. The Sacred Harp songs on the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack had been an introduction to the sound, and "I totally fell in love right away," Harris said. And while the Christian hymns of the Sacred Harp were familiar to Harris, the act of singing it brought out a connection to a completely different spiritual tradition that she hadn't anticipated. "When I was growing up, my mom was a devotee at an ashram in South Fallburg, and part of the practice is to do these very repetitive chants that would go on for a half hour or an hour," Harris explained. "(Sacred Harp singing) was more like that than I had expected. It was a really physi- cal experience, and it felt kind of familiar to me. It's the only time in Western sacred music that I've encountered something that felt that way, so that was cool." While Harris has a singing background, she said one of the things about Sacred Harp singing that's appealing is how egalitarian it is. "People come in with all kinds of self- consciousness about whether they can sing well, but the whole point of this is, it's not about performance; it's not about who's singing the prettiest," she noted. "Pretty" isn't usually a word associated with Sacred Harp singing and, Ben Bath says, that's OK. "Singing loudly is an integral part of this," he explained. "Not screaming, but strong singing. Full singing. The collective sound makes it easier for everyone to sing. It makes the music explode, but no one's straining their voices to do it." And in doing so, Bath and Fenton ex- plained, Sacred Harp singers gain access to the sort of musical experience usually reserved for virtuosos. "It's a way for people that are nonmu- sicians, who don't have a music back- ground, to have an experience that, unless you're a trained chamber musician, you're never going to have," Ben Fenton ex- plained. For anyone still wondering if Sacred Harp singing is for them, Todd Pascarella had this to say: "If you have any interest whatsoever, that's enough. There's no reason not to come check it out," he urged. "It's a once- in-a-lifetime chance to do something like this." A9 March 6, 2014 O-Town Scene 9 The next Sacred Harp singing school will be March 31 through April 4 at the Catskill Mountain Artisans Guild at 76 Main St. in Delhi. The school meets from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a potluck and community singing from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 5. Cost is $35, which includes a copy of the Sacred Harp tunebook. For information or to register, contact Ben Fenton at (845) 254-4884 or benjamincfenton Singing School

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