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Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp [Two-Disc Special Edition]

4.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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(Jan 01, 2008)
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Two-Disc Special Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

As seen on Public Television nationwide. 'Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp' is the first feature documentary about Sacred Harp singing, a haunting form of a cappella, shape note hymn singing with deep roots in the American south. Shape note singing has survived over 200 years tucked away from notice in the rural deep south, where in old country churches, singers break open 'The Sacred Harp', a 160 year old shape note hymnal which has preserved these fiercely beautiful songs which are some of the oldest in America. The film offers a glimpse into the lives of this 'Lost Tonal Tribe' whose history is a story of both rebellion and tradition. The filmmakers, Matt and Erica Hinton spent 7 years documenting this yet largely unknown art form. Narrated by country singer Jim Lauderdale. This Special Edition includes an extended version of Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp with over 20 minutes not seen on Television, as well as over 5 hours of bonus features! Including: * Awake, My Soul, a documentary introduction to the history, music and traditions associated with The Sacred Harp, a 19th shapenote hymnal which contains many of the earliest American tunes. * Deleted Scenes * Additional interview footage from the Sacred Harp singers featured in Awake, My Soul commenting on a variety of themes. * Over two hours of Sacred Harp singing (62 songs) from 1998-2006, the years that Awake My Soul was in production. * A feature-length audio commentary by featured singers Hugh McGraw, Raymond Hamrick, John Plunkett, and director, Matt Hinton. * The original 10 minute film that was the university project which led the directors, Matt & Erica Hinton, to produce Awake, My Soul . * Interviews with Narrator/ country singer Jim Lauderdale and with Executive Producers Mac Powell & Tai Anderson of the Grammy award winning band, Third Day. * Subtitles for those who haven't yet grasped the nuances of the Southern dialect of the English language. * and more...

Amazon.com

Seven years of filmic devotion by directors Matt and Erica Hinton poured into Awake My Soul, a thorough examination of the history of Sacred Harp singing. Sacred harp singing, based on four notes, or "shape-notes" sung in different octaves and a cappella rounds to form otherworldly harmonies, has survived since early Colonists rebelled against a musical dearth caused by Puritanism by inventing this lovely congregational singing style. Delving into hymns from "The Sacred Harp," a 160-year old hymnal still presently used, Awake My Soul shows choirs at Shoal Creek Church in Georgia and Henegar Union Convention in Alabama, among others, singing Christian songs that sound as if they were written in the Renaissance. In addition, narration by Jim Lauderdale edited into archival footage and interview snippets with approximately twenty living singers and music teachers navigates the historical, social, and religious terrain of this American tradition that was rediscovered in the 1920s and again during the 1960s folk revival, by Alan Lomax and singer Hugh McGraw. Certain characters, like Raymond Hamrick, a watchmaker from Macon, Georgia who has been singing and songwriting for over fifty years, remind one of how crucial storytelling is to rural Southern culture, where sacred harp singing currently thrives. Awake My Soul is careful to point out that this music has been preserved in small communities rather than in academic settings. To underscore the cultural power each individual has to foster artistic creation, regardless of age, class, race, or other social limitation, is to shed true light on what Sacred Harp singing is all about.--Trinie Dalton

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Hugh McGraw, Raymond Hamrick, Richard Delong, Rodney Ivey, Warren Steel
  • Directors: Matt Hinton & Erica Hinton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Surround Sound
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Awake Productions
  • DVD Release Date: January 1, 2008
  • Run Time: 300 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012IU2FW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,697 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

A Kid's Review on January 31, 2008
As an avid Shape Note singer I must say that Matt&Erica's film is
an excellent intro to this wonderful American music.I am glad and proud to
be part of the fold that is doing all it can to keep this music alive.
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The Amazon review of this documentary would have you envision Sacred Harp singing as church going madrigal singing. The truth is, Sacred Harp is hang on for your life, white-knuckle, belt-it-out, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs singing like most people never get the chance to experience. Sacred Harp singing is a transforming experience, and "Awake My Soul" does an incredible job of conveying what it is like to be part of it. It is both educational and deeply emotional. I asked Matt Hinton once at a screening at a national Sacred Harp Convention, "What led you to make this documentary?" He looked incredulous and said, "Have you HEARD this music?" His love of the music comes through so clearly in this documentary. It is worth watching, over and over.
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I have always had a fascination with Sacred Harp singing, and though I've never experienced it myself in its traditional, most pure sense, have sung many of the hymns. At my old church job, was the oldest - and only colonial church built in Washington, D.C., we were visited as much a history buff's destination as a worship place for the parishoners.

As such, in addition to the rich Angelican literature we frequently performed music of the colonies and early America, and I was always happy when the Sacred Harp came out. A few years ago a friend in Georgia told me about a documentary that featured his Sacred Harp group, about the history of Sacred Harp/Shape Note singing, etc. but I never heard any more about it. Somehow I missed the original airing on PBS, but a few weeks ago stumbled across a site that mentioned this documentary "Awake My Soul" and I had to have it. What an amazing, thoughtful, fascinating and uplifting film this is.

Filmmakers Matt and Erica Hinton, devotees of this music, are aided by a wonderful assortment of Sacred Harp singers, young, old and in between, who are part of the tradition for myriad reasons. To hear this music, sung like this makes me realize how much we've lost as a culture by forcing this music away and out into the backwoods of our country. In the early 20th century one could find almost nothing about this music, and in the 1920's a German Professor at Vanderbilt University, musicologist George Pullen Jackson stumbled into it only to be amazed that this "Lost Tonal Tribe" still existed in the country. He wrote, "The nation's earliest music had been preserved not by the universities and institutions, but by unschooled country folk."

The worldwide cultural associations with this music are rather amazing.
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This double DVD set is worth every cent. It is a great recording in documentary style. The film preserves the oral history and stories surrounding the truly American form of singing called Sacred Harp, or Shape Note singing. The film is filled with touching moments and amazing community feelings. Parts are humorous as you listen to Southerners try and describe making sense of the "rabbit food" brought to pot lucks by Northerners. The film leaves you with a deep sense of pride and an interest in preserving this uniquely American form of music and communal bonding. I could envision my own children learning this style music and was amazed at the passionate following and joy it brought to other young people who spoke or just appeared in the film clips. It left me wanting to do what I can to learn this form of communcal singing and preserve it for the next generations.
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I first purchased this 7 years ago and consequently a number of copies since to give as gifts. It is a wonderful documentary and does an impressive job telling the story of sacred Harp. It is no easy story to tell as it is such an unusual music form that the only way to really, truly get to know what it is all about is to experience it. And that is what it is intended for, group participation. Not a concert or musical show of any kind. Each singing event is a wonderful and unique public celebration that is wrapped up in beautiful tradition, sacred poetry, soul stirring melodies and harmonies, and the warmth of a welcoming community of adherents from all walks of life. This film gives a nice glimpse of the history and living traditions that are currently employed keeping this music alive and growing today.
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Yielding to an impulsive interest on the topic, I purchased a copy of this DVD and found myself captivated. Considering that this style has thick roots to early singing in Protestant England and one can see the progress through the writing of such early American composers such as William Billings, I was left with the awe inspiring feeling that I had heard the voices of ages past risen in a spiritual force... I think that even if you are not religiously inclined but do love the music of the heart of the common man, this is something you must experience even if only in DVD format.
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A huge thank you to Matt and Erica Hinton for this documentary on Sacred Harp Singing. I have been singing this music my whole life and it has been handed down in my family for over 150 years. Sacred Harp is not just some songs we sing, it's something we do, much like living, breathing and eating, we sing this music. Sing at weddings, funerals, family reunions, while working around the house or plowing the garden! I agree with the previous post, enjoy the DVD and a CD, but go to a sing somewhere near you to get the full effect. Sing on: Amy Lee
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