Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention, 2003 (Steve Grauberger)
Nothing is held back; old-timers will tell you that "if you can hear your neighbour, it means you aren't singing loud enough!"
—Ian Loeppky, choral conductor
The University Singers are preparing to raise the rafters in their upcoming concert, Sacred Voices II, which takes place March 31 at Crescent Fort Rouge at 7:30 p.m..
It's a program featuring mostly music from the Deep South, as in Alabama, including selections from The Sacred Harp. And it includes a public sing!
Guest conductor Ian Loeppky will be sharing the conducting duties with the choir's regular conductor, Elroy Friesen.
Loeppky is originally a Winnipegger and graduate of the University of Manitoba. He's been working in Alabama for a decade now, so he is well-steeped in the musical styles of the south.
SCENE asked him to explain the Southern singing traditions:
The Sacred Harp was one of many books of "shape-note" music published in early America (called as such as each note had a distinct shape to aid in reading it). It was rustic, raw, exuberant music that cared not a whit for the "rules" of harmony, and with the influx of "correct" European music in the 19th century, was pushed to the rural South where it has lived on at "singings" at small country churches to this day.