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Rivers of Delight - American Folk Hymns from the Sacred Harp Tradition

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Album Review

The shape-note hymns, worship anthems, and "fuguing tunes" that emerged from 18th century New England (and would eventually spread through the Southeast and Central states as well) together constitute one of the most instantly recognizable and most distinctively American musical sounds this country has ever produced. Like the people who wrote and sang it together, this music draws deeply from European traditions and yet is shaped by the rough exigencies of frontier life; at its best it is the musical equivalent of a cathedral built out of hand-hewn logs. The Word of Mouth Chorus perform this repertoire in a manner that is perhaps just a bit mannered; in deference to the communal and participatory nature of of this music, there is a self-conscious effort not to make it sound too pretty, and at times, such as on J.P. Reese's potentially gorgeous composition "Eternal Day," the group's harshly nasal delivery and relentless forte end up obscuring what the singers presumably meant to reveal. But the album's finest moments, which include a heartbreakingly perfect rendition of "Evening Shade" and a quiet performance of the starkly yearning "White" by Elder Edmund Dumas, will make the least-pious listener stop and catch his breath. North America has produced much music over the past 300 years; little of it has proven as enduringly powerful as this.

Customer Reviews

"Tis A Gift To Be Simple"

What "Peace And Joy" can be found going up the "Rivers Of Delight" with the incredible Word Of Mouth Chorus! There is ancient, archaic and amazing music to be discovered within! "We're Going To A Better Land" where the "Sweet Prospect" of an "Eternal Day" awaits the listener! The Sacred Harp Tradition in Folk Music is brilliantly recreated here. This reminds me of so many other types of musics: Gregorian Chants, English Madrigals and Accapella Chorales come to mind. Whole note and shape note singing; Southern & Northern Church Music and Appalacian & Acadian Gospel Singing all float up from the "Wonderous Love" expressed on this one recording. So, if we are "Parting Friends", let me recommend The Word of Mouth Chorus to make your spirit "Soar Away!" Grimmbo.

Good Intro to Sacred Harp

Not a typical sacred harp sound. For those just discovering this genre, sacred harp singing or shape note music is traditionally sung by rural peoples with no musical background. It's the oldest music native to the United States. It's a rustic -and dare I say at times crude- sound, but therein lies its charm. This group is obviously comprised of experienced singers. Their tuning, rhythm, and diction are far, far superior to anything you would find at a "normal" sacred harp singing. At the same time, they make an attempt at that sound. Their tone is intentionally less refined than a normal choir would be. Classical or experienced musicians approaching the genre for the first time will cringe slightly for this reason, but the more schooled aspects of the performance will keep the music accessable to them. Later you can sample the more typical performances where the singing is much more boisterous and some groups nearly tone-deaf. Group seems light on the tenor line where the melody usually is, but this is nit-picking. Excellent CD to sample the music and get your feet wet in Sacred Harp without being put off by the sometimes-crude and much rougher sound of most sacred harp groups.

Excellent recordings of talented sacred harp singers

Excellent recordings of talented sacred harp singers.

Rivers of Delight - American Folk Hymns from the Sacred Harp Tradition, Word of Mouth Chorus
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  • $8.99
  • Genres: Singer/Songwriter, Music, Classical
  • Released: 1979

Customer Ratings