Site logo for Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singerslogo

Leading A Song

notes fa sol la Dear Miss Grace Notes: What are the proper procedures for leading a song? The registration card I filled out when I arrived has a message urging everyone to sign up to lead a song ----Want to but Scared

image of Miss Grace Notes Gentle Singer: It is most important that when your name is called to lead at an all-day singing, you have already chosen your selection, which you immediately state in a loud, clear voice filled with authority as you step to the center of the square. Do not indulge in chitchat; do not tell everyone why you chose this song, the date and time your first sang it and how it moved you, that you have a new puppy named "Boylston," etc., etc. You don't yet have the experience to know when it is acceptable to do something like this and when it isn't.
   Always face the tenors when you step into the square and for all the time you are leading (except to lead in parts on a fuging tune which is not something first-timers do). Immediately announce the verses to be sung and when repeats shall be observed. Please also have this in mind before you arrive in the center of the square -- do not decide only after you arrive. The notes are then sung and after that, the words commence. Do not wait to announce your verse selections between note singing and verse singing -- it diminishes the energy which has built during the singing of the notes.
   Do not announce that you've no idea how to sing your selection but have always longed to hear it done. For your early trips to the center of the square, you should only be selecting songs that you already know how to sing.
   Direct with clear movements, obtaining help from the first-row tenors. If you look them in the eye and smile, they will smile back, sustaining even the most fear-struck first-timer. (Do not try this with the alto section, however; it almost never works, as they're not used to seeing the faces of the leaders and it confuses them.) At the conclusion of your selection, state a simple "Thank you" and float to your seat.

Back to Miss Grace Notes

Questions? Email us at