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The Sacred Harp tradition is actually very ancient. It has descended from the hymnody of the New England colonies. Our shape notes were patented in 1798 by singing masters looking for a way to teach sight reading in their singing schools. Over the next few decades the shape note notation became very popular with hymn book compilers. Sacred Harp was gradually pushed out by the music reform movement which was critical of our harmonies and rhythms. But it persisted in the mountains and rural south