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June 8, 2004

North Fulton Times

The 136th annual June Sing in Alpharetta will again raise voices in the songs of the traditional shape-note singing that once filled thousands of Southern churches. As always, the sing will be at Alpharetta City Hall 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 13. The longest continuing tradition in North Fulton, the June Sing used to attract thousands of visitors to what was then a small hamlet in old Milton County for a weekend of praise singing. In the days when few broadcast radio signals penetrated deep enough into the Georgia piedmont and a movie or "flicker” was a rare treat, the June Sing was one of the big social events of the year. People came to Alpharetta in the 1920s and ‘30s from surrounding towns to take part in what was then a three-day celebration of Sacred Harp singing, but it was also an opportunity for young people to become acquainted and for families to renew old ties.

Various sings are held all across the Southeast, and singers travel to each for the opportunity to hear and to sing. Sacred Harp is the name of the hymnal that gave its name to the body of songs with roots going back to Elizabethan times. It is famous because of its use of shape notes, a four-note system that singers can read by the shape of the note.

The singers arrange themselves in a square formed by bass, tenor, soprano and alto voices. A leader stands in the middle of the square and measures the beat with an upraised fist. All the music is sung a capella. The emphasis is on participation, not the performance. The people sing because they enjoy it. Many churches still employ the shape-note singing, distinctive in that the singers sing the notes B fa, so, la B first, then sing the lyrics. Big Creek Primitive Baptist Church holds a sing on the third Friday of each month, except during the summer. That’s when the singers are all off across western Georgia and Alabama to attend annual sings in towns dotting the Southeast. But this Sunday, the shape-note singers will be in Alpharetta, just as in the 135 previous years.

Posted by acapnews at June 8, 2004 9:35 PM

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