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January 31, 2014

Artisans guild's classes on singing take shape

(Continued)

“It’s got this great push and pull, between the four parts, almost like a chamber music experience,” Fenton explained. “You have this amazing counterpoint, and all the parts get their own chance to shine.”

But if that sounds daunting to anyone without a musical background, it shouldn’t, Fenton explained.

“The rudiments of music in the Sacred Harp songbook demystify music. It pulls back the curtain and makes it so approachable,” Fenton said. “It’s such a different way of teaching music, but, my God, it works! I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about music. It blew my little pea brain away — and this is ... someone who’s sung his whole life.”

At the Kingston group, Fenton met Bath, who has been leading a Sacred Harp group at Bard College for seven years. The two talked about creating a singing group in the Fleischmanns area, but Bath had a better idea. 

“This music was originally spread through these singing schools. So we thought, why don’t we do that and really make this about a community music teaching project?” Bath said by phone on Wednesday. “And I think that’s the best thing to do with this stuff. This music can really build community.”

Todd Pascarella and his wife, Jeanine, are among those who have gotten bit by the Sacred Harp bug. The couple took turns attending singing schools (she in Roxbury, him in Fleischmanns) and now come to Fenton’s bed-and-breakfast in Fleischmanns once a week for a community singing.

“We drag the kids out and everybody gets together and has fun,” Pascarella, 36, said Wednesday.

Pascarella, who is mayor of Fleischmanns and a small-business owner, described the sound of Sacred Harp singing as “old-time pop gospel,” noting that the music’s four-part harmony “is not intricate, it’s not over-the-top; it’s just nice. It adds another layer of sweetness to the music.”

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