Sacred Harp Events Celebrate Lincoln and Powell Connections

May 7, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will host a series of events during the month of May related to the Sacred Harp, a traditional method of singing four-part harmonies according to a shape-note tune book first published in 1844.  The Sacred Harp is believed to have been used by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and former Illinois Wesleyan Professor of Science John Wesley Powell.

All events are free and open to the public.

On Monday, May 11 at 7 p.m. in the Beckman Auditorium of The Ames Library (1 Ames Plaza, Bloomington) Awake My Soul, a documentary about Sacred Harp history and current tradition, will be shown. 

Beginning Tuesday, May 12 through Thursday, May 14 a Sacred Harp “singing school” will be offered to familiarize participants with the shape-note singing system, which was developed by 18th-century itinerant American singing masters to quickly teach four-part unaccompanied vocal harmony. Participants in the singing school, who may come to any or all sessions, will learn the basics of singing the shapes and the unique harmonies of the Sacred Harp. Singing school will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each evening in room 308 of Presser Hall (1210 N. Park St.).

The Sacred Harp events will culminate on Saturday, May 16 in a day-long singing session to take place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in room 308 of Presser Hall. Lunch will be provided to participants who make reservations with Martha Tyner by Thursday, May 14.  Tyner may be reached by e-mail ( or by phone at (309) 379-5261.

No experience is required for either the singing school or the Saturday singing and the singing school is not a prerequisite for the Saturday singing. Songbooks will be loaned to participants for the events.

For additional information regarding the events, contact Tyner.  For more information about Sacred Harp, visit

Contact: Jessica Block ‘09, (309) 556-3181