Singin' in the square 


The sound of shape-note singing ranges from jubilant to mournful, and it sounds the same no matter where you sing it, from rural Alabama to the Rocky Mountains. Featured in the movie soundtrack to Cold Mountain, the form enjoyed a revival of interest a few years back.

This weekend, the Black Rose Acoustic Society and the Rocky Mountain Shapenote Singers will host a workshop at the Benet Hill Center, designed to interest local singers who might want to form a regular singing group.

An a cappella choral music form that dates back to the early 1800s, shape-note singing began as itinerant singing teachers crossed the rural South teaching congregants who couldn't read musical notation how to read shapes instead -- triangles, circles, squares and diamonds representing musical intervals and read aloud as fa, sol, la and mi. Singers sit in what is called the "hollow square," the tenors facing the altos, the basses facing the sopranos, with a volunteer leader in the center.

The tradition still persists across the United States, from university classrooms to community centers, from Minnesota to Oregon, and thrives in Georgia, Alabama and Texas.

Local singer Pete Mathewson has traveled thousands of miles to sing shape-note, and in 2004 with wife Susie, joined the Rocky Mountain group that holds scheduled singings in Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins, Albuquerque, N.M., and Salt Lake City. A group sings monthly in Denver at Swallow Hill.

This Saturday's singing will host some singers from northern Colorado to provide structure and to introduce workshop participants to the music. Participants are invited to sing or to listen.

Mathewson hopes the workshop will lead to a regular group here in the Springs. If there is sufficient interest, a formal singing school will follow the workshop, likely in June. Previous singing experience is not required and all interested are welcome to participate.

-- Kathryn Eastburn


Shape-note Singing Workshop

Benet Hill Center, 2577 Chelton Rd.

Saturday, March 19, 1-3 p.m.

Free and open to the public

For more, contact Pete Mathewson at opengate@pcisys.net or 648-2274.


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