United Kingdom Sacred Harp & Shapenote Singing
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Brief History of the United Kingdom Sacred Harp Conventions
 

by Edwin Macadam
 

    First started in 1996 and referred to as Shapenote Conventions, the first three years were two book singings, aimed at attracting all those who had been taught by Larry Gordon and brought up on Northern Harmony, together with many others who had been attracred by the Sacred Harp, some of whom had already visited singings in America.

    An introductory singing day was organised in April 1995 at the earliest of the Finstock singings (in fact the earliest formal singing ever held in the UK), which was led by Robin Fox and Mary O'Reilly, both of Minnesota. This introduced several of the UK singers to the US Sacred Harp convention etiquette, including that of the Memorial, and Sick and Housebound Lessons. Two further singing days were held, one at Finstock and the other at Digswell, without any visitors, before any larger scale singing in the UK took place.

    The First UK Shapenote Convention was subsequently held at Woodside Hall, Hitchen, Hertfordshire, on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September 1996, to which  a total of 48 singers attended the workshops and singing on Saturday, and 40 on Sunday. Of these, 9 were visitors from America: Judy Mincey (Georgia);  Bruce Randall (Massachusetts); Diane Menella and Richard Schmeidler (New York);  and David Hough, Katharine Hough, Joanne Hoover, Susan Helf, and Ken Cofield (Washington, DC.), who all gave the UK Committee considerable support and encouragement. The UK Organising Committee comprised Bernard Collard, Steve Fletcher, Caroline Humphreys, Sheila Smith, and Judy Whiting. See the minutes of the first convention in 1996.

    For the first two years, the annual convention was held in Hitchin, before moving on to Beeston Youth Community Centre, nr. Nottinghamwhere it was held for three years. Then followed Cumnor Old School and Cumnor Village Hall, nr. Oxford for two years and one year respectively;  the Letchworth Methodist Church Hall, Herts., for two years; Henry Box School, Witney, Oxfordshire, for two years; and the Mechanics Institute, Marsden, West Yorkshire for the last two years of its then fourteen year history. Subsequent years have seen an annual move of the convention location to venues in Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire, Berkshire,  Durham City, Central London, Bristol and Brighton.

    Other than Bruce Randall, who conducted the workshops for the first convention on both days, guest Leaders from the States for the earlier conventions have included Richard deLong, Ginnie Ely, Robin Fox, David Lee, Shelbie Sheppard, and Matt Wojcik.

 
           
           
   

This Web Site has been set up for the United Kingdom Sacred Harp and Shapenote Community in order to provide a resource centre for singing in the United Kingdom.  Any correspondence, helpful suggestions and contributions as to content, amendments, additions and new web links should be sent to      Contents of this website 1998-2019 Edwin and Sheila Macadam, Oxford, United Kingdom.