The name of the Capitol Hill Chorale’s season this year is Kindred Voices. Director Fred explains it in the concert notes:
In this Kindred Voices season, the Chorale is singing music from different parts of the world that wasn’t created originally for concert performance, but instead was sung by people with each other as part of their everyday lives… In this March concert, I looked for traditional choral music from America that ordinary 18th and 19th century Americans sang. I was drawn to two of the earliest types of traditional music in America – shape note and Shaker tunes.
During tonight’s rehearsal — our antepenultimate until this weekend’s performances* — we were briefly joined by a group of shape note singers who happen to get together in the Capitol Hill church our concerts are sometimes in. Fred has repeatedly has told us that these songs are a part of this country’s musical culture. But it’s one thing to hear that and an entirely different thing to see it.
Their voices were not refined, but their presence and singing brought a smile to my face while we sang “The Apple Tree.” The passion was most evident in their (leader? director? organizer? I’m not sure what to call him).
He put together a shape note songbook called “The Shenandoah Harmony,” which he said was the largest of its kind to be published in more than a century. He also invited us to one of their sings next month.
I can’t lie, I’m tempted to go out of sheer curiosity. It’s so different from any of my personal musical experiences and just feels so…American.
*Concert is drawing nigh! People can buy tickets here.