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Inside the Wall of Sound: Shape Note Singers Keep The Sacred Heart Beating

Chicago Artists, Shape Singing No Comments »

Photo: Ted Johnson

By Lindsay Kratochwill

The streets of Hyde Park are dark, empty and cold when I finally make it to the apartment building and, as instructed, ring buzzer seventeen. A tiny square of paper is taped to the clear glass door with four musical notes in four different shapes: a triangle, oval, rhombus and rectangle. Soon, a silent stranger comes to let me in. As we climb the spiral stairs, I begin to hear it; a great sound, welling up and abruptly de-crescendoing. It is powerful but erratic, seeping through the walls of the stairwell.

Shape note singing is raw, loud, haunting—a wall of sound. We step inside the warm apartment and the music, sprung from the throats and hearts of those in the room, envelopes me. Each imperfection creates a beautifully eerie chord. Read the rest of this entry »