Traditional vocal harmony in the West Los Angeles Area

Ballona Fasola

What Else to Expect at Our Singings

We started singing in May, 2009. At first there were only four of us, but now the number of singers ranges from six to ten.

Every week we sing from Sacred Harp, unless otherwise discussed in advance. huge list of MP3 file samples of songs from this tradition.

The social dynamics of Sacred Harp singing differ from a choir or an amateur performing group. Here, you have more freedom to work out your own personal musical agenda (in the company of other inner-directed singers).

Learning by osmosis  Shape Note singing is the only genre of music in America today where adults can learn music by osmosis.
   The tradition is designed for this very purpose. Because we sing "biological harmonies" your brain naturally tunes in and remembers.
   

Osmosis takes weeks, but enjoyment is immediate (some learning materials are stashed here) ( and our favorite songs here).
Subset of our favorite songs suitable for first-time visitors to call; with links to recordings.


Musical hospitality  Musical hospitality means:
    (1) That everyone gets a chance to call a song from Sacred Harp.
We may not sing it perfectly, but we'll do a better job next week.
(What to call?) (Favorite song management)
   (2) That we overlook each other's imperfections.
   (3) That we come to sing, not to discuss religion or politics.

The fact that the words to the songs are religious (an "1844 hymnal", if you will) misleads many people. We "leave religion at the door" -- also a good place to leave "critical thinking".


Secret teaching  If people are allowed to sing their favorite songs, they always enjoy themselves, even if they don't get all the notes right.
   If the song is so wonderful as to deserve perfection, then surely someone will call it next week.


Mysterious optimization  If 6 singers come and we go around the room twice, then we've sung 12 songs.
   That means -- 12 favorite songs; 12 personal choices; 12 focused lessons.
Workshops  We used to have a lot of workshops.
   Now we depend more on informal learning.

E.g., singers keep private lists of songs they are working on. Very inner-directed.


Regular singings  On the "fourth Thursday" (Thursday before fourth Sunday),
    we invite singers from all over Los Angeles area. Thus slightly more singers, more variety.


Songbook focus  Our main songbook is the 1991 edition of Sacred Harp.
    ("America's favorite acappella songbook")

The 550+ songs in this collection are suitable for a small group of singers of average skills who want to sing in four-part harmony, and enjoy a mix of major key and minor key songs. The songs are not designed for performance, but for living room singings and other social occasions.


Singing hours  Songs are served on Thursdays 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

 (We are more like a bar that serves music, than a choir.)

  These are not "rehearsals" for some future performance, so there's no need to come precisely at 7:00

(Who ever felt "late" because they walked into a bar 60 minutes after opening time?)


"Not a choir"  "Social singing" differs from choirs in many ways.
  Since we don't perform, you never let the group down by "missing a rehearsal". Want to go bowling? No guilt. We're not preparing to get up on stage and act perfect. Go bowling then.


Voice

Vocal Production

 Generally, singing techniques are not taught in Sacred Harp circles.
    We say "It's okay to sing loud"; but you will gain more control of your voice by singing delicately. Once you've discovered new techniques in this way, then you will want to sing out. So sing as loud as is comfortable for yourself.

It's also recommended, as you surf the Web, to find singers who have exactly the same vocal range as yourself. At least find someone who has the same upper range as you yourself now possess (not some future hope-for range).

Why?
1. Because most of us have muscle-based pitch memory (rather the ear-based perfect pitch)
2. Because anything that your pitch-matched model voice can sing, your brain naturally encodes and finds opportunies to use.

Eclectic singing  We focus on songs from the 1991 Sacred Harp.
  Occassionally, we sing from other songbooks to keep our sight-singing skills sharp. Our first eclectic singing was held on October 29, 2009, when we sang 21 songs and anthems from Norumbega Harmony. Song list for next eclectic singing.


Default settings
(protocol)
 The descriptions on this page are the "default settings" for our Culver City singing group.
 These default settings are modeled on practices followed by other Shape Note groups around the country.

If you travel to any of the cities whose small group singings are listed here, you will fit right in.


Reading music   For people who with no previous training in reading music, using "shapes" is an excellent way to learn, but it takes time.

Fortunately, you have completely control over the process, by calling a song whenever your turn comes around.

For people who already know how to read music -- you're welcome to ignore the shapes (you won't be alone). You can sing any system of solfeggio that you know (some of us have sung do-re-mi solfege for years, and will never learn the shapes). The important thing is to sing the right note (pitch).

  Totally a cappella.

There is no keyboard instrument to help us figure out a new melody, but we like to sing new songs.

(550+ songs in the Sacred Harp)

For good singers, this is a significant sight-singing challenge.

For other folks, you can always follow the good singers. It's okay to come in a micro-second after the person next to you.



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Santa Monica Learner's Group
Link to other shape note singings in West Los Angeles area
More information on Shape Note Singing in general
Contact: David Olson (310) 410-9033 for more details.

Singing location: 4427 Overland Avenue, Culver City, California
Close to "The Spot Cafe & Lounge"

Other goodies on this website.