Bloomington Sacred Harp

Shape note singing in and around Bloomington, Indiana

Regular Singing Location and Time – 2nd and 4th Tuesdays

We meet twice a month. Our local singings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month from 7-9 PM in the lower level of the Fairview Methodist Church.  (600 W 6th St.) Park in the lot on the north side of the building and enter through the lower level doors on the southeast side of the building.

Newbies are encouraged and, don’t worry, loaner books are provided!

Upcoming dates: Only ONE more local singing before our All-Day event! 10/23…

Be sure to mark your calendar for the 2018 (15th Annual) Bloomington All Day Singing which takes place on Saturday, October, 27, 2018 at 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

The 23rd annual Higher Ground (Darrell Swarens memorial) Singing is moving to Bloomington, Indiana. It will take place on March 23, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Fairview United Methodist Church with a traditional dinner on the grounds at noon.

15 years of All-Day Singings in Bloomington

Coming up in just a few days, join us for the 15th Annual Bloomington All-Day Sacred Harp Singing. The event takes place at Fairview United Methodist Church (600 W 6th St) on Saturday, Oct 27th, 2018. We will sing from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with a traditional potluck dinner on the grounds at noon. *Local singers are encouraged to bring a dish to share.

Providing a hearty meal is just one little way we can care for the folks who travel, in some cases, 100s of miles to join us!

We will be singing from the 1991 revision the Sacred Harp, but don’t worry, loaner song books will be available. A voluntary donation will be taken to help cover expenses.

I’m a little nervous about singing and I don’t have much time. Can I stop by?

Yes, you are welcome to drop by for any amount of time to enjoy the sights and sounds! Trust me, it’s an incredible experience that is difficult to put into words. Just come and check it out and don’t feel bashful about timing your visit around noon to take part in the potluck. The food is almost as memorable as the singing!

Bloomington resident, William Shetter, who recently celebrated his 91st birthday, launched the first All-Day Singing event here in Bloomington in 2004. However, Shape Note Singing (or Sacred Harp) has been a part of our local community, in one form or another, since the late 70s.

John Beale of Cincinnati, Ohio was part of the group that began here in Bloomington in (probably) the late 70’s when he was a graduate student here at IU. David and I began singing with the original Bloomington group between 1988-89 using the brown book edition.  – Marlen Rust

Watch an interview with William Shetter with a little bit of singing from a local gathering.

Shape Note, also known as Sacred Harp singing, is part of an American singing tradition that developed over the period from 1770 to the mid 1800s. At the core of this tradition are the all-day singing conventions which usually occur annually. Historically, and even to this day, these singings provide a chance for local singers to meet singers from a wide region, share stories, new songs and form social bonds.

Ever since the American folk-music revival peaking in the mid-1960s, interest in Shape Note singing has been growing throughout America and Europe. More recently, films like “Cold Mountain” have featured Shape Note recordings that have inspired a whole new generation of music lovers to experience this traditional form of singing first-hand.

The global timeline map (below) displays the locations of “All-Day” singings held each year between 1995 and 2014 in sequence. Find more on this over at Southern Spaces.

We look forward to seeing you very soon! If you are on Facebook, help us share the event link here.

Bloomington now hosting Two All Day Singings!

The 23rd annual Higher Ground (Darrell Swarens memorial) Singing is moving to Bloomington, Indiana. It will take place on March 23, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Fairview United Methodist Church with a traditional dinner on the grounds at noon. Please stay tuned for updates and feel free to ask any questions on our Facebook group page. *We hope to sing from The Missouri Harmony book in addition to the The Sacred Harp, 1991 edition–loaner books will be available. Stay tuned for updates!

The 15th annual Bloomington All Day Singing is set for October, 27, 2018 in the same location (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) with a traditional dinner on the grounds at noon. RSVP here and help us share this event on Facebook:


Check back for updates! Read more…

Photos from the Bloomington All Day Singing

On Saturday, October 21st, I believe we had a record number in attendance for the 14th Annual Bloomington All Day Sacred Harp Singing. Around 80 people joined us over the course of the five hour event from many states–singing 70+ songs. Special thanks to all of the visitors from out-of-state and local media, WFHB and The Herald Times, for covering the event!

Put it on your calendar for next year- Oct 27th 2018. RSVP here:

A post shared by Aaron Jones (@aeronious) on

We hope you’ll join us at our next local meeting time, again, at Fairview United Methodist Church. 600 West 6th St. Bloomington, IN. You’ll find us in the church basement, 7pm-9pm. Remember…




A Message from Moira Smiley

1936166_105800615853_3060082_nOne of the reasons I became interested in Shape Note music was from hearing Moira Smiley sing in Bloomington, IN. One particular concert took place as part of the Bloomington Early Music Festival. I was hooked.

I decided to reach out to Moira to see if she would do a personal video talking about the influence of Shape Note music on her music and also to help us spread the word about our upcoming All Day Singing. Here is her response. Down below, I’ll post some of Moira’s music. Update: This post is from 2016. This year’s All Day Singing takes place on October 21st. Details here.

Read more…

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