The Lower East Side Shape Note Sing celebrated its’ one year anniversary in August and I’d like to thank all the people who made that happen.
First I’d like to thank Mathew Barton, then of the Lomax Archives, for introducing me both to this music and to Jennifer Gilson of The Living Room, New York’s most important acoustic/folk venue.
I’d like to thank Bradford West. I asked him if he would do a Singing School downtown if I provided the venue and the audience. He said, “Sure.” I still think it was one of his best singing schools to date and we couldn’t have started the sing without him. Thank you to his friends from Western Massachusetts who came to help cover the parts.
Ultimately the credit for the idea of an ongoing monthly sing goes to Jennifer Gilson. She was happy to volunteer The Living Room for the Singing School but she was familiar enough with the Sacred Harp tradition to say, “So, sings are monthly, right? Which weekend do you want?”
Jennifer had become acquainted with Sacred Harp when her partner, Steve Rosenthal, called her one morning and woke her up. He was working the Lomax CD of the 1959 United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Fyffe, Alabama. He said, “Baby, you gotta’ hear this.” and held up his cell phone. Even over the phone and from a recording she heard the Convention in full voice.
This was Aldo’s first time leading a sing and his good-hearted willingness to try and risk making mistakes created an atmosphere at Sing that was unintimidating and encouraging. Others felt free to pitch and led the sing in Aldo’s absence. Thank you to Inga Knets, Holly Laws, Frank Griggs, Diane Minello and also to Brenda Peña, the leader of the Brooklyn Sing for leading when Aldo was away at conventions.
I want to thank Terry Ryan, who bought a box of loaners when he saw the Sing was growing and we were running low. He drug them in a suitcase up and down subway steps from Brooklyn to Manhattan to nearly every sing and we are grateful.
Press and PR for the Sing wouldn’t have gone half so well without my coaches. Sally Geisel, Mary Mac and Laura Densmore helped me get started and kept me on track. And we’ve had a lot of new singers join us because of the press listings and mentions we’ve gotten from Matt Winters of “The Moonshine Show”, WKCR, Laura Cantrell of Radio Thrift Shop, WFMU, Time Out New York, John Schaffer at NPR’s Sound Check, Ruth Graham of the New York Sun, Pinewoods, The Villager, Craig’s List and NYPress. These new singers would have never found out there was a place to sing this odd, wonderful, heartbreakingly beautiful music without their help and I thank them.
It’s been a great year.