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Program 1319

1. Sacred Harp singing
2. butterflies
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Oldham County

For more information:
Ohio Valley Shapes
Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers, from the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, offers a brief history of shape-note singing, a beginner’s guide, and links to other resources.

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographers: Frank Simkonis, John Schroering
Audio: Thomas Cooper
Editors: Brad Spears, Charlie Midkiff, Joy Flynn

The Shape of Music

Sacred Harp singing

Every human being is born with a musical instrument: the voice. In Colonial America, church choir leaders developed a streamlined notation system using distinctive shapes for the notes to help congregation members learn to use this God-given “sacred harp.” Today, enthusiastic groups of singers still gather regularly for all-day (or even multi-day) singings of shape-note hymns and anthems. Kentucky Life visited one such group, the Ohio Valley Shape Note Singers, at a singing in Brownsboro to get a taste of this unique musical tradition.

The most common form of shape-note or Sacred Harp singing in America uses just four notes, repeated over several octaves. There are also four voice parts: treble, tenor, alto, and bass. The singers sit in a hollow square, and a leader stands in the middle facing the tenors (who sing the melody) to keep time.

Shape-note notation has no markings for volume, and most experienced Sacred Harp singers sing quite loudly as an expression of worship or simply the joy of making music. The sound that’s produced as a result is powerful, distinctive, and spine-tingling. All groups welcome newcomers, and they’re usually encouraged to stand in the center of the square for a bit to get the full effect.

But don’t expect to just sit quietly from there. There’s no such thing as an “audience” for Sacred Harp singing—the point is to participate.

Watch This Story (12:05)

For more information:

Society of Kentucky Lepidopterists
Mammoth Cave National Park, P.O. Box 7, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, (270) 758-2251
Raymond Athey Barrens State Nature Preserve, c/o Lane Linnenkohl, Ogden Dean’s Office, Western Kentucky University, 1 Big Red Way, Bowling Green, KY 42101, (270) 745-7005
• Log House Bed and Breakfast, 2139 Franklin Rd., Russellville, KY 42276-9410, (270) 726-8483

Producer, videographer, editor: Brandon Wickey

Flitter Critters


Kentucky Life takes wing in the next segment as state nature preserves biologist Ellis Laudermilk helps us find examples of rare and beautiful butterflies throughout the state.

According to the Society of Kentucky Lepidopterists, about 2,450 species of butterflies and moths are found in the state. Most of those are moths, but more than 140 of North America’s 700 or so species of butterfly have been spotted in Kentucky.

In this tour, we seek them out in locations in Hickman, Letcher, Mason, and Meade counties as well as Mammoth Cave National Park and two Logan County nature preserves: Raymond Athey Barrens, part of the state preserves system, and the privately owned Log House Prairie.

Watch This Story (10:34)

SEASON 13 PROGRAMS: 1301130213031304130513061307/1326: The Lincoln Wedding130813091310

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