AWAKE, MY SOUL > The Story of the Sacred Harp

Providing a 75-minute journey into the wondrously vivid and idiosyncratic music known as sacred harp (or shape-note) singing, Awake, My Soul tells the story of what may be America’s oldest musical tradition through an examination of those who first established its ornate rules over 200 years ago and those who continue to follow them.Label: AWAKE PRODUCTIONS
Rating: ★★★★☆

Providing a 75-minute journey into the wondrously vivid and idiosyncratic music known as sacred harp (or shape-note) singing, Awake, My Soul tells the story of what may be America’s oldest musical tradition through an examination of those who first established its ornate rules over 200 years ago and those who continue to follow them. Sounding like a wall of impenetrable monosyllabic chanting to the uninitiated, the music provides fertile ground for filmmakers Matt and Erica Hinton. The husband-and-wife team spent seven years collecting interviews and observations. Along the way, you’ll learn about singing schools, meet a 90-year-old watchmaker who draws songwriting inspiration from dreams, and hear plenty of the music in its most authentic form. Ultimately, the documentary succeeds for that reason, maintaining a tone that is informal but scholarly, focusing largely on the close-knit communities that continue to perform the music and find a sense of fellowship in the preservation of a uniquely Southern cultural expression.