Stephen A. Marini, General Editor
University Press of Mississippi
$22.00, hardback, ISBN 1-57806-611-5

Book News for Immediate Release

Sacred music tradition injected with burst of new energy.

Norumbega Harmony is a Boston-area musical community that has been a leading force in the revival of the American singing-school tradition. The group consists of engineers, academics, writers and editors, medical professionals, and community activists, all committed to singing and preserving traditional American music. With the recent visibility of younger singers like Tim Erikson, who was featured in the movie Cold Mountain, the northern singing school communities like Norumbega Harmony are enjoying heightened attention.

THE NORUMBEGA HARMONY (University Press of Mississippi) is a songbook of this community's music that collects 106 early American tunes and thirty contemporary tunes. Represented are works by America's earliest composers, the itinerant New England singing masters whose schools were the principal form of music education in the Early Republic. The music is vigorous and strikingly original. From four-part hymns called "plain tunes" and lively "fuging tunes" with independent lines for each part, it ranges to complex and inventive anthems that achieve the highest expression of the New England singing-school style.

The Norumbega Harmony community is dedicated to preserving and developing the New England singing school tradition. While their focus is on preserving the tradition and spreading its sound, Marini says that younger singers are taking the music into the future. "The younger generation of northern singers seems to be incorporating singing school music into a larger world music sensibility."

Stephen Marini, who gathered the songs that became THE NORUMBEGA HARMONY, sees a special significance in the thirty contemporary tunes in the new book. "They are in fact a crucial part of the singing school revival and a powerful link between new northern singers and traditional singers of the Sacred Harp," he said.

THE NORUMBEGA HARMONY presents more than one hundred choral compositions from the Golden Age of the New England singing school as well as thirty contemporary compositions from the current revival. The collection is both an expression of the American singing school tradition and a documentation of the Norumbega Harmony community's experience in it.

Stephen Marini, Elizabeth Luce Moore Professor of Religion at Wellesley College, is the author of Radical Sects of Revolutionary New England and Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture.

For more information see the Norumbega Harmony website.
To order a copy of The Norumbega Harmony, please contact

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Original 2004 April 02
Last modified Fri Apr 2 2004 / Ishmael the Fiddler