Ian Smiley

shape note 16Ian Smiley enjoyed an experience of transcendence in community making music when he sang with a children’s choir performing for a great crowd at a concert in Leeds, England when he was 17 years old. At the time and later he thought “that would be even better if the folks in the crowd were with us in making the music which is filling our bodies.”

This thought characterizes an attitude that Ian has had about community and music making since then and Ian has focused on that desired joining of community and music making found in the traditions of singing from The Sacred Harp and other shape-note music since then.

With this song in his heart Ian has founded local singings or assumed leaderships responsibilities in singings where he has lived since he first went to college. Never much of a scholar or a performer of the music Ian has shared his passion a practitioner of the style. He learns by going to as many singings as he reasonably can, or singing at home, or at one time even by sitting on the old tractor up in a hayfield singing through The Sacred Harp and reading bits of the Rudiments of that book. If asked, Ian is always happy to explain he usually finds a key for a song, and how he marks time for a song.

Some day Ian would like to go to Camp Fasola or organize the gathering of a similar institution for the New England region. Among other things, Ian would like to learn how to confidently lead songs where there is that tricky transition between slow marked time and a quicker tempo for a fugue part. “Greenwich” 183 is one of those songs.

There are so many friends for Ian to think for their companionship in this journey with shape-note singing, but before all others he would like to think his mother, Susan Smiley. She first came upon a group of singers gathered on a church lawn in Middlebury, VT there for a local singing when Ian was a tiny tot. He has been around the singing since then, singing at home with his father and sisters. His family actively participated in local singings for years during Ian’s childhood. Ian would also like to thank Larry Gordon and Patty Cuyler, directors of Village and Northern Harmony for their tutelage in vocal music. Since singing with those performance singing groups Ian has found so many friends in the wide community of local singings from The Sacred Harp. Dan Hertzler and Laura Timmerman were there during an amazing summer of singing in 2003. Ian met and started singing with Tom Malone and Joanna Lampert in 2004 while in company with Debby Moody. After years of searching, Ian met the love of his life, Chelsea Smiley, at a local singing in Burlington, VT. There are so many friends in this community of shape-note singing. Ian extends his love and gratitude to all of them.

singing school by Pete Sutherland

main page of Pete SutherlandPopular shape-note singing school teacher and musician extraordinaire Pete Sutherland is teaching a singing school at Saint Michael’s College tomorrow.

The class commences at 9:45 AM at 303 Edmunds Hall on the main campus.

Parking is available for visitors in the main lot near Durick Library and the McCarthy Arts
Center. Will Ellis, who is the host of this singing school, has an arrangement with St Mike’s security so that anyone visiting to participate in the singing school does not have to worry about parking tickets.

Pete Sutherland plans to use a packet of songs from The Sacred Harp which includes the following

  • Northfield
  • Russia
  • Hallelujah
  • Africa
  • Idumea
  • Primrose
  • Wondrous Love
  • Christian’s Farewell
  • Old Hundred
  • Mear
  • Liverpool
  • Ninety-Fifth

angel Apollyon


ApollyonLast night we sang at Bill’s house in Williston because the Ira Allen Chapel was still closed for the student vacation. There were 15 of us there. One of the songs mentioned having victory over Apollyon and all his angels. Someone asked “Who is Apollyon?” Taylor said he was the angel in charge of the gates of the abyss in the book of Revelation. So I suggested someone look it up to make sure. One person found that it was the name of one of the arguers in Paul Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I looked it up and found that, sure enough, it was the name of the angel in charge of the abyss in Revelation 7:11 (as well as the name of the character in Pilgrim’s Progress). (Actually it is in Rev 9:11, but I said 7:11 by mistake, and the name means Destroyer.)

So Bill said, “7-11?”

Nicandra: “A slurpee angel, Apollyon, the angel of the blue slurpee.”

Joseph: “Yes! And if you are in a 7-11 and you order a slurpee, and you press both the blue button and the green button on the slurpee machine at the same time, it opens up. Because no-one presses them both at the same time, but if you do, it opens up to an abyss!


For years I have been giving the wrong story for the meaning of the name Ebenezer (literally, Rock of my help). Here is the correct version (ca. 850 BCE):

I Samuel 7:

12Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel.

–Mark Williams

site is back again

vtshapenotesingers.com is back on the web. Thank you to Joseph Salzer for all his help getting the site working again, and for giving us a place where the site is hosted.

Since the place of hosting for the site has changed it is probable that some links and features may not function correctly at first. Admin for the site will prioritize de bugging the site over the next few weeks.

videos for singers

I have not had exciting videos here at vtshapenotesingers.com. Today I have begun to address that shortcoming by searching for videos on YouTube and embedding some in a page on this website.

image of web page for video

Video page at vtshapenotesingers.com

Ultimately I would like to be more involved in creating some video content from singing in Vermont and providing access to that content on this website but this is the beginning that I can make.

Tom Malone teaches very young singing leaders

“trilliumlane” took this video while she was at the singing school and put it on her YouTube page.

Dr. Tom Malone gave a singing school in S. Hero VT over the first weekend of June, 2012. He was ably assisted by friends Joanna Lampert, and Justin Squizzero.

In his singing school Tom focused especially on developing the confidence and skills of very young singers.

These children came up to S Hero with their family from New York and Massachusetts. During the school, Tom set aside sessions where he called exclusively on the youngest singers to answer questions about shape note music technique and to choose and lead songs from The Sacred Harp, and also from his book of shape-note compositions, the Champlain Harmony. We may see more of Tom Malone in VT for singing schools this summer. There is talk of him offering a singing school around the time of the Jeremiah Ingalls All Day Singing, perhaps on July 20th.