The Shenandoah Harmony is a new shape-note songbook with a concentration on Shenandoah Valley music of the early nineteenth century. At 469 songs on 480 pages, The Shenandoah Harmony is the largest new book of its kind published in more than 150 years. Its coauthors, John del Re, Kelly Macklin, and their daughter Leyland del Re; Nora Miller; Daniel Hunter; Rachel Hall; and Myles Louis Dakan are residents of the Mid-Atlantic states. The book is now in its second printing since its release in mid-February 2013.
The original inspiration for The Shenandoah Harmony was to create a tunebook that included the best of the shape-note songs collected, printed, and published by Ananias Davisson from 1816 to 1826 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Davisson’s works, Kentucky Harmony and A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony, combine European congregational hymns and New England singing-school repertoire with the frontier sound of arranged folk hymns and camp meeting songs. They had a profound influence on later tunebooks, including the popular shape-note book The Sacred Harp, which has been continuous publication since 1844.
In addition to being avid Sacred Harp singers, the del Re family of Boyce, Va. has been singing from Davisson’s books for over twenty-five years. Inspired by recordings of songs from Wyeth’s Repository (Harrisburg, Pa., 1813) and Kentucky Harmony (Harrisonburg, Va., 1816), they sought out songs associated with their own region. Through these recordings, they also became aware of the wealth of shape-note music found in out-of-print and inaccessible tunebooks. The group of coauthors formed in 2010; in the subsequent years, the project expanded to include other Shenandoah Valley sources, New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern songs in a similar style, and sixty songs from living composers. The coauthors considered thousands of nineteenth-century shape-note songs from over seventy sources for inclusion in the book.
The debut singing from The Shenandoah Harmony was held on June 2, 2013 in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area, near Ananias Davisson’s grave. Over 100 singers from at least sixteen states attended. Recordings, photos, and videos of the Harrisonburg singing are on this site.
Due to the traditional practice of shape-note singing, in which singers hold their books in one hand while marking time with the other, the authors of The Shenandoah Harmony have chosen to reduce prefatory material and endnotes in order to lessen the weight of the book. The electronic edition has 35 additional pages, allowing for a fuller bibliography and additional indices.
John W. del Re is a brick and stone mason in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He runs a small sheep farm and is an avid builder and shape note singer. John and his wife, Kelly Macklin, have run a monthly singing and an All-Day singing since the early ’90s. He received a Folklife Master award from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in 2011. His children Leyland and John Daniel have sung shape notes their whole lives.
Kelly Macklin has been singing shape-note music since the late 1980s. She and her husband John del Re co-host the Northern Shenandoah Valley monthly singing, the NSV All-Day Shenandoah Harmony Singing on the first Sunday in June. In 2011 she received a Master Folklife Award from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanties. She gardens and raises sheep and works as a building estimator. She’s cooked many a potluck dish to share.
Leyland W. del Re, daughter of John and Kelly, has been traveling all over the country to sing since she was 3 years old. She currently co-hosts the Richmond Sacred Harp 1st and 3rd Tuesday singing and the James River All-Day Singing. She is a cardiac ICU nurse and also works in Richmond’s birth center as a labor assistant.
Daniel L. Hunter has been a shape note enthusiast since 2008. He has organized singing in the Lehigh Valley and traveled all across the country to sing & learn. Daniel operates Hunter Hill Farm, a produce CSA in Easton PA. Before encountering shape note he played upright and electric bass in various jazz and classical ensembles and studied performance at Berklee College of music.
Myles Louis Dakan began singing shape note music at Swarthmore College in 2008. After graduating he held a linguistics research fellowship at University of Maryland, and worked as a lab manager at Northeastern University. He is an avid contra dancer and a member of Gamelan Galak Tika. He has studied classical voice & piano, gyil, and taiko.
Nora Miller has been a devoted singer since a friend took her to a Tuesday night singing in Northampton, MA on August 3, 2004. She grew up Irish Step Dancing, playing violin, and singing in chorus and musicals in high school; she never really considered herself a singer until she found Sacred Harp. Nora co-sponsors the Baltimore Weekly Sacred Harp Singing every Thursday and works as a special education teacher in Baltimore, MD.
Rachel Wells Hall grew up in a family of folk musicians. She first sang shape note music with her mother in the late 1980s in Cincinnati, Ohio, and returned to singing in Philadelphia in 2009. As a member of the folk trio Simple Gifts since 1995, she has recorded three albums and toured throughout the Mid Atlantic. She has travelled to Norway and the Shetland Islands to study traditional dance music on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 1991-2. In addition to singing, Rachel plays English concertina, diatonic accordion, piano, fiddle, and tabla. She is an associate professor of mathematics at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.