Producer Cristy Meiners is preparing an interview for tomorrow (Friday) that had its genesis with a blog reader's comment from months ago. A listener named Matt Wells wrote:
I'd like you to interview Matt and Erica Hinton, who produced "Awake My Soul" . Powerful stuff, and music that is unlike anything heard on XM (which is saying something).
I checked it out, and "Awake My Soul" turned out to be a film documentary about shaped-note or Sacred Harp singing, some of the oldest music in America. It began 200 years ago when churches decided the congregations should participate in singing hymns. They quickly discovered that people didn't know how to sing. So they set up singing schools, developed a system of shaped notes (a triangle, an oval, a rectangle and a diamond) representing fa-so-la and mi, divided the singers by voice parts---tenors, altos, basses and trebles---had them all face one another, singing as loud as they could. Later, a hymnal called The Sacred Harp was published. People who knew music were horrified because what resulted defied all the classic rules of composition and choral singing. So "reforms" were introduced and Sacred Harp singing all but disappeared. It was kept alive by a few rural churches in the Deep South, to be "rediscovered" by musicologists and folksong collectors in the 1920's and 30's. The Folk Revival of the 1960's also helped revive interest. It's still growing in popularity. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's so ancient-sounding, so haunting that it appeals to me.
I'm a sucker for any kind of choral music, going back to my days in a church choir and my high school glee club. It's always fascinated me how Brian Wilson took those very complicated jazzy harmonies of the Four Freshmen and adapted them for rock 'n roll with enormous success. As a result, my favorite groups have been the ones with the best harmony vocals---the '50's doo-wop groups, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, CSNY, the Eagles, gospel quartets, bluegrass bands, etc.
Matt Wells, I'm sorry it took us five months to act on your suggestion, but I hope you enjoy it. Anyone else have a request?