Watch and Listen: Shape Note Singing by Craft Works, Live from the WRTI Performance Studio

Nov 6, 2018

What is shape-note singing? Listen to a Craft Works Music choral ensemble perform shape-note songs from early America in the WRTI Performance Studio, and chat with WRTI's Susan Lewis.

It's a preview of Craft Work's November 8th concert at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. 

Founded in 2017, Craft Works Music has a roster of professional singers working in the greater Philadelphia area, with a common interest in preserving early music and encouraging new music.   

On November 7th an ensemble of eight singers will perform shape-note songs live in the WRTI Performance Studio. Watch the performance on the WRTI Facebook page. 

Rachel Wells Hall, co-author of  The Shenandoah Harmony, a new four-shape music book, joins the conversation.  

In shape-note singing, a group gathers around a leader, who sings the starting chord and beats time. Members of the group then sing syllables fa, sol, la, and mi, notated on the music by different shapes, sometimes followed by verses with words.

Program for WRTI broadcast:

Anonymous, Windsor 

Nehemiah Shumway, Pennsylvania

Amzi Chapin, Primrose

Anonymous folk hymn, Voice to the Shepherds

H.S. Reese, World Unknown

Craft Works Music provides a forum for singers to discuss, perform and read music from different time periods.  Podcasts created from these sessions are distributed online here.

Les Anders, bass/baritone, has specialized in ensemble and small choral group singing since 1990. He's sung with The Princeton Singers, The Choir of St. Clement's Church (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania Pro Musica, Piffaro, The Albemarle Singers (American Boychoir), and The Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, among many others. 

Jacqueline Dunleavy, soprano, has performed most recently in Mendelssohn's Elijah and Haydn's Creation with Doylestown Presbyterian Ecumenical Choir & Orchestra. As a chorister, she has performed in Opera Philadelphia productions of Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, and Carmen. She is a cantor and section leader at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. 

Sierra Fox, mezzo-soprano, regularly sings as core singer for the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, staff singer for the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, section leader/cantorial soloist for Keneseth Israel Synagogue, cantor for Our Lady of Lourdes Church, and lead singer/percussionist for mythic tribal-folk band Ashagal and interfaith kirtan ensemble Mandala. 

Karl Hein is currently a staff singer and cantor at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, and has performed with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, The Crossing, The Philadelphia Singers, Nashirah Jewish Chorale of Philadelphia, and the Masterworks Chorale.

William Lim, tenor, has performed for various opera companies including Opera Philadelphia, the New York City Opera, Opera Libera, Opera MODO, Poor Richard's Opera, Center City Opera Theater, Opera New Jersey, and Opera in the Ozarks.  He has appeared as a concert soloist alongside the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Symphony in C Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Singers.

Anaïs Naharro-Murphy, soprano, sings with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, the Princeton Singers, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church Choir.  She has also sung with Opera Delaware, Concert Opera of Philadelphia, and Baltimore Lyric Opera, among other companies. She is a founding member and Artistic Director of ENAensemble. 

Cortlandt Matthews, a composer and vocalist, performs regularly with the Chestnut Street Singers, Glassbrook Vocal Ensemble, and the Same Stream Choir, of which he is a founding member. His compositions has been performed by The Crossing at the Big Sky Choral Initiative, The Same Stream on The Same Stream: The Inaugural Recordings, and by choirs collegiate, community, and church in the US, UK, and New Zealand. 

Diana Maye Whitener is a performance artist and uses visual media and music together within both sacred and gallery spaces. In 2016, Diana collaborated with the choir of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, on Meditations on the Passion of Christ where her series "Give Me This Stranger" was featured to compliment and magnify the musical offerings of the choir. Diana has been a staff singer at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Philladelphia since 2013.