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Songs of deliverance by folk singer Tim Eriksen

A musical postcard: hardcore Americana for A Tapestry of Sacred Music


Published: 31 Mar 2021

Time taken : >15mins

He captures a truth about the human condition and expresses it unapologetically, through his music.

Tim Eriksen presents two ancient hymns in the Sacred Harp singing tradition against a wintry backdrop of the pastoral Western Massachusetts, United States, in response to Esplanade’s festival, A Tapestry of Sacred Music. In the theme of deliverance, especially in this period of a pandemic, both songs are about experiencing hardship and overcoming it through faith.

In Sacred Harp singing, there is no harp. Sung a cappella with no instruments at all, this tradition of sacred choral music is full-bodied singing in a four-part harmony. The result is a distinct Americana sound that is both raw and powerful. Sacred Harp originated in New England centuries ago, as Protestant music, and found its roots in the American South in the late 1700s. The name “Sacred Harp” is derived from an historically important tune book The Sacred Harp, published in 1844, which was printed in shape notes (shapes added to noteheads in written music to help singers identify pitches).

Solitude in the Grove
Written by Isaac Watts, 1719
Music by Ananias Davisson, 1817

Lyrics by Anne Steele, 1760
Tune in Southern Harmony, 1835

About Tim Eriksen

Tim Eriksen is recognised for transforming the American folk tradition with his bold interpretations of ballads, love songs, shape note gospels and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines vocals with the banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto (twelve-string Mexican acoustic bass), creating a unique hardcore Americana sound that ranges from bare-boned vocals to lush and layered arrangements.

Eriksen’s music has featured in films such as Ray McKinnon’s Chrystal and the documentary Behold the Earth. Also notable are his contributions to the music of Anthony Minghella's Oscar-winning film Cold Mountain, and to the 2010 Grammy-nominated album Across the Divide by Afro-Cuban world jazz pianist Omar Sosa. Eriksen has also collaborated extensively beyond his American roots, in diverse projects ranging from hardcore punk to Bosnian pop and duets with artists such as Esma Redžepova, queen of Romani music and dance and English folk musician Eliza Carthy. He was the former frontman of folk-noise band Cordelia’s Dad, shape note quartet Northampton Harmony and Bosnian folk-pop outfit Žabe i Babe.

Eriksen last performed in Singapore at Esplanade’s A Tapestry of Sacred Music festival in 2014 at the Esplanade Recital Studio with Singapore vocal group Vox Camerata.

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