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March 2, 2004


Much of the publicity surrounding the Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to "Cold Mountain" has focused on a pair of songs, "Idumea" and "I'm Going Home." They are performed in the traditional, harmony-rich a cappella folk-hymn style known as sacred harp, or shape-note singing. Though the movie's best-song-nominated "The Scarlet Tide" and "You Will Be My Ain True Love" are not sacred harp songs, their singer, Alison Krauss, will be accompanied by a 40-piece sacred harp choir when she performs them at the Feb. 29 Academy Awards ceremony. She'll segue into Stephen Jenks' 1800 sacred harp song "Liberty."

Whether the DMZ/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax soundtrack to "Cold Mountain" can do for sacred harp what "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" did for bluegrass (T Bone Burnett produced both) remains to be seen. But new interest in the very old form points to "a really interesting intersection between sacred harp and music publishing," according to Tim Eriksen. He assembled the Oscar choir (and is himself a member) and arranged the film's sacred harp tracks in addition to performing on them and several other soundtrack songs. "It's interesting, because sacred harp exists on the border between written and oral tradition," Eriksen says, citing the genre's main published collection, "The Sacred Harp -- A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, Odes, and Anthems," compiled by B.F. White and E.J. King and first published in 1844. (available from singers.com). "The current book -- the 1991 edition -- contains mostly old songs from the 18th and 19th centuries. So it gets somewhat complicated, with disputes over ownership and publishing rights going back over 100 years." More

Posted by acapnews at March 2, 2004 8:27 AM


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