Northern Harmony, the unique world music vocal ensemble based in Vermont, USA, returns to Stourbridge for a concert on Wednesday, February 6 at 7:30 PM at Elmfield School, Love Lane, Stourbridge DY8 2EA. Admission at the door is £7 for adults, £4 for students, £15 for families. For more information call 01384 377833 (evenings)
The thirteen sparkling young singers, led by Larry Gordon, present a thrilling mix of world harmony traditions including South African songs and dances, traditional polyphony from Georgia, Corsica, and the Balkans, American shape-note singing and quartet gospel, and medieval motets. Now on their fifteenth European tour, Northern Harmony has won a wide reputation for their remarkable command of the different singing styles and timbres appropriate to these different traditions.
Northern Harmony is the highest level performing group under the umbrella of the world music organization Village Harmony, which sponsors singing camps and workshops in New England and many parts of the world. (see www.villageharmony.org) The singers are primarily brilliant young graduates of Village Harmony singing programs, and most have studied traditional singing styles first hand with native teachers in South Africa, Bulgaria, Corsica and Caucasus Georgia.
South Africa has a particularly powerful and appealing folk harmony singing tradition, with a rich, resonant vocal sound, and wonderfully syncopated rhythm. The singing is always accompanied by dancing, with the rhythm of the dance movements often in counterpoint to the song.
Georgia’s ancient three-part harmony singing tradition features a dark, sonorous vocal quality, and startling harmonies, unlike anything in European music. Traditional Corsican singing, passed down through oral tradition, features two highly ornamented upper voices over a more sustained harmonic bass. The excitement for the listeners and singers both comes from the impassioned delivery, the surprising harmonic shifts which ripple from voice to voice, and the buzzing vocal timbre which creates an extremely powerful sound rich in overtones.
Shape-note singing, one of Northern Harmony’s trademarks, had its origins in the community singing schools of 18th century New England. It is simultaneously a sacred and a social singing tradition, featuring stark, open harmonies, rhythmic, contrapuntal “fuging” sections, and the marvelous sacred poetry of the 18th century English hymn writer Isaac Watts and his followers. The concert will also feature traditional and contemporary arrangements of 1930’s gospel quartet numbers, with tight harmonies and catchy rhythms.
Northern Harmony also performs a wide variety of village music from the Balkan countries. This music features the characteristic bright, “hard-voiced” Balkan vocal timbre, with dissonant harmonies frequently based on drones, and irregular dance meters in 7, 9 and 11.
For further information visit the Northern Harmony website.