Norumbega Harmony is one of the most active groups of Sacred Harp singers in New England. If you are reading this flyer, you probably already know something about the Sacred Harp singing tradition, which originated in New England Protestant churches during the pre-Revolutionary period, with prior connections and some similarity to country parish music in England.
We describe ourselves as a social, musical and spiritual community whose mission is to share the style and substance of early American sacred song with religious, musical, educational and cultural publics. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds and are drawn to this music by reasons which are as varied as their experience. As a community, we share the early American roots of shape-note music as a common heritage.
Norumbega Harmony was founded by in 1976 by Dr. Stephen Marini, professor of religion at Wellesley College and an award-winning author and scholar. He continues to serve as our singing master. We observe the tradition of the itinerant singing-school that gave birth to Sacred Harp singing, singing four-part shape-note scores in full voice as members successively lead tunes from the center of the hollow square. Our sound expresses our union and articulates an engagement with the sacred texts, tunes and traditions of early America.
As a group, we have continued to evolve, to expand and to learn over our almost 40-year history. Some of our members have extensively researched early American hymnody, discovering New England compositions which had not been sung for 200 years and bringing them back into circulation. Others have composed numerous tunes in the Sacred Harp style and encouraged the work of others. Still other members have traveled throughout the wider singing community which now flourishes in many areas. They have brought back knowledge, influence and inspiration from their visits, particularly from the Deep South, where shape-note singing continued after it had died out in New England.
Above all, we are a community that sings from the heart. Our activities are governed by consensus and dedicated to reviving and renewing the New England Sacred Harp heritage. Norumbega Harmony is, for example, a principal sponsor of the New England Sacred Harp singing convention. (Its location rotates each year between Eastern Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut.) We also present concerts/lectures and workshops at churches, colleges, universities, historical societies and other locations throughout New England. We have produced three recordings: Sing and Joyful Be: Early American Hymns, Fuging Tunes, and Anthems (1989) and Come to Zion: Shaker Songs (1992, coproduced with Hancock Shaker Village) and Sweet Seraphic Fire, tunes from our book The Norumbega Harmony.
We come together to sing each Monday evening. On the second Monday of each month, the singing takes place at Andover Newton Theological School at the Meeting House, 210 Herrick Road, Newton, Massachusetts. Singings on other Mondays are held at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church, 54 Lincoln Street, Newton. We begin at 7:45 P.M. (sometimes closer to 8:00), continuing until 10:00. For singings on major holidays, call for possible changes in location.
The second Monday singing is media-advertised and open to the public, regardless of experience or interest level. The other Monday singings are also open, although not media-advertised. If you wish to begin attending the other Monday night singings on a regular basis, we ask that you have some experience with shape-note music as well as accurate singing ability. We also request regular attendance by new members. There is no audition required; membership is determined by a process of mutual acceptance and enjoyment. Visiting singers from other parts of the country are welcome to drop in at any time. (From the parking lot entrance next to the church, ring the bell and someone will let you in.) Both locations are wheelchair accessible.
For the second Monday singings, the tunebook used is The Original Sacred Harp, the most widely used of the shape-note tunebooks. Continuously in print since its publication in 1844, the book contains tunes ranging from the eighteenth century to the present. Works by two of our members are included in the 1991 edition. On the other Mondays, we sing from other collections also, including The Norumbega Harmony, The Northern Harmony and The Sacred Harper's Companion.
In addition to our other activities, we have recently published our own tunebook, The Norumbega Harmony, which includes 125 plain tunes, fuging tunes and anthems, nearly 100 of them drawn from classic New England compositions from Boston, Maine, rural Massachusetts, and the Connecticut Valley. Most of the balance of the collection is devoted to original compositions by our group members. The Norumbega Harmony includes full bibliographic citations for each tune and text, historical notes, composers and authors indexes, first-line index, scripture index, rudiments of shape-notation and singing-school instruction, and an introductory essay on early American sacred song. The collection is published by the University of Mississippi Press. A representative recording was released in 2005, funded by a grant from the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals and the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
We appreciate your interest in Sacred Harp singing and hope you will find in its fellowship the many and varied blessings we have been privileged to enjoy. For further information about Norumbega Harmony, please call Dennis or Lyra O'Brien.
Financial Statement for Fiscal Year 2013.
Financial Statement for Fiscal Year ending 2015