Shape Note Singing (2023 program)

Peter Ross, Paul Kostka, & Terry Moore
Workshop Area 1 / 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Song leaders in the eighteenth century invented a notation system to help church singers who couldn’t read sheet music learn to sing in 3- or 4-part harmony. The result was “shape notes” or “sacred harp”. This is a living tradition, with songs still being written and enthusiasts singing around the country, and every week in the Bay Area. See the Bay Area Sacred Harp website at for more information and local singings.

This workshop will be intended for both beginners and experienced shape note singers. The shapes can be a little challenging at first, but sit near people who know what they’re doing and you’ll be fine. The workshop will start with a brief introduction, then we’ll jump right in to singing. Loaner tune booklets will be provided.

Paul Kostka manages the 2nd and 4th Sunday Sacred Harp singing in Palo
Alto. He also sings with the Coventry Carolers at the Dickens Fair, and
plays traditional music on multiple instruments at sessions and for

Terry Moore has sung Sacred Harp music since the turn of the century, having seen a notice in the folknik. He has led workshops for several years in Ben Lomond, chaired Sacred Harp conventions, and regularly participates in the Palo Alto area singings. He also enjoys singing barbershop, gospel, madrigal, and jazz a cappella harmonies.

Peter Ross originally got hooked on shape note singing when he attended workshops in the 1990s at the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, due partly to the gorgeous harmonies and the inspiring music. He now sings regularly with the Palo Alto shape note singing group, and occasionally with the Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and East Bay groups. Also, before traveling, he checks the website, and has found groups with which to sing around the country.