What is the heavy metal of folk?

“When We Arrive at Home”

Adena Rivera-Dundas, 25, has been organizing the Logan Square gatherings since August. She’s a soft-spoken redhead with clear gray-blue eyes. During the week, she’s a writer for Groupon. She claims she’s not a musician, that she has no musical background at all, but today she teaches her beginning singers with a natural ease.

“The circles are sol,” she says, using consonance to cement the mnemonic. “The squares are la, the two L’s put together. The triangle is fa, with a flag, and then the diamond is mi, ‘cause it’s special, like you.” Rivera-Dundas smiles at the group’s laughter, then adds, “If you cannot remember what the letters are, it does not matter. You can say la for everything and you’ll be mostly right.”

She’s not armed with much. The Xeroxed packets. The table of snacks and hot water for tea. The folding chairs that face each other. The 23 singers waiting to hear what comes next. But in a few minutes, they’re all going to make a sound that has shattered windows, shaken atheists and cemented obsessions that some pursue for decades.

“Get ready,” Rivera-Dundas said to me before the singing began. “You’re gonna be right in it today.”

Profile of the Sacred Harp folk singing community in Chicago; unpublished long form capstone project, full text available on request (December 2013)

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