Charles Wells’ Sacred Harp Singing Site

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About Sacred Harp Singing

Directory of This Site

  • Sacred Harp singing is an American folk tradition of singing hymns and gospel songs from The Sacred Harp, a 150 year old songbook that uses shaped note heads to indicate position in the scale.
  • This is the type of singing that took place in the church scene in the movie Cold Mountain.
  • Sacred Harp singing is a participatory event, not a performance, although visitors are welcome to come and listen.
  • The singers sit in a hollow square facing each other and take turns leading songs, which are sung in several parts without instrumental accompaniment.

Oberlin Harmony: Songs We Like To Sing

Our new songbook Oberlin Harmony: Songs We Like To Sing, has been reprinted.  It is available by mail for $12.00 postpaid from Charles Wells, 4300 West River Parkway, Apt 371, Minneapolis, MN 55406, USA.


Oberlin Harmony was edited by Chloe Maher and Charles Wells, with the help of many singers from the Oberlin area.   It contains over 70 old and new songs, chosen primarily because we like to sing them.  Many are by authors connected with Oberlin, and most of them have been newly typeset.  These are the songs, listed by author:


Barnett, G. P.: Arkansas

Bayer, John, Jr.: Hans; Marcia; Oke­­­fenokee

Bliss, P. P.: It is Well with my Soul

Bosold, Ann: Bosold; Pontchartrain

Bradshaw: Mississippi

Brown, Bartholomew: Williamstown

Bruce, Neely: Millbrook

Chandler, Henry F.: Lisbon; Palms of Vic­tory

Croft, William: St. Anne

Davis, Lena Mae: Sweet Peace

Davis, R.M.: Sweet Peace

Davisson, Ananias: Amandra

Dean: Consolation

Denson, S. Whitt: I Won't Turn Back

Gibbons, Dan: Sixty-Five South

Hauff, Judy: Marcia; Okefenokee

Heider, Anne: Evanston

Henkin, Doron: Works of Wonder

Heritage, E.: Marshfield

Hertzler, David: Mount Hope

Houston, Seth: Emerald Stream

Humphreys: Exultation

Hutchinson, Roland: Relly's Third

Jenks, Stephen: Painesville; Solon; South Thomp­son

Johnson, Ted: Boulder

Kastelle, Allen Gabriel: Aberdeen; Encouragement; Forsaken; Mount Zion (Third)

Kelly, Ron: Life's Purpose

Kinkade, Pat: Deluge

Kunkel, Hal: The Stone Forever Stands; Ten Thousand Charms

Morris, Blake: Bankes

Palazzolo, Michael: East College

Pappas, Nikos: Buzzard’s Glory; Sinking Spring

Penick, S. R.: Narrow Space

Roberts, Caradog: In Memoriam

Schedler, Eric: Wells

Stokes, Edward: The Good Old Way

Sutherland, Pete: Crossing

Swan, M. L.: Paradise

Tucker, Tom: Windgate

Walker, W.R.: Laurel Hill

Wells, Charles: Cedar Street; Harkness

Wojcik, Matthew: Sovereign Love

Wright, David: Durango; Every Grace; Old Barrows; Wells (Second); York

York, Chandler H.: The Earth; Garvin; Maher; Mari­etta; Muhai­­yadeen; Nhat Hahn; Pondi­cherry; Round Pond; Rox­borough;  Sophia; Wednesdays

York, Jeremy: Gilbert; Turman 

Shape Note Songs for Downloading

These are songs in four-shape notation that you may download and copy to use in singings.

They are all Acrobat .pdf files. To see or print a .pdf file you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program that you can download from this location. Many documents are distributed in .pdf format and if you download Acrobat Reader and install it on your computer (which you need to do just once) I predict you will use it many times in the future!

Many of the songs were written by David Wright, a graduate of Oberlin College.

Many thanks to Karen Willard for help in typesetting.

Other locations where songs can be downloaded: Other songs, old and new, are available for downloading at these locations:


by David Wright. Download

Every Grace

by David Wright. Download

It is Well with my Soul

This is a song from the J. L. White edition of The Sacred Harp (thanks to my son Matt Wells for giving it to me). Download

In Memoriam

by Caradog Roberts. This is a Welsh song with very nice words (in English!) that is often called at our weekly evening singings in Oberlin. It is posted here by permission of the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu Association from Welsh and English Hymns and Anthems (reformatted), page 28. Download

Old Barrows

by David Wright. Download . 


This is a song from The New Harp of Columbia (a seven-shape book used in eastern Tennessee) that I have retypeset using four shape notation. I have not changed it otherwise except to add repeat signs to the second part, which aligns the typeset form with local custom in Tennessee. Download


by David Wright. Download


Information about Sacred Harp Singing on the Web

Main Websites

The main sources of information on the Net about Sacred Harp and other shape note singing are

These two sites have many different resources that are not listed on this site.