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.
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.
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.