David Ivey

Sacred Harp Singer
Headshot of a man.

Photo by Allison Whitener


A master of Sacred Harp singing, David Ivey is a leader in reinvigorating this unique vocal tradition for the 21st century by leading singing schools all over the country and creating the first summer camp dedicated to Sacred Harp singing. Sacred Harp, or "shape note," singing traces its legacy back to colonial New England, from which it spread to other parts of the early United States through the work of itinerant singing masters. The Sacred Harp hymnbook was published in Georgia in 1844 and gives the tradition its name. Singers sit in a hollow square, with voice parts on each side, and sing towards the center where individuals take turns leading the "class."

Ivey was born into one of the most recognized of the Sacred Harp singing families of Sand Mountain, Alabama. He began attending singing schools in Henagar, Alabama, under such notable singing masters as NEA National Heritage Fellow Hugh McGraw and Leonard Lacy, and at a young age was called upon by leaders to "key" or provide pitch at the beginning of songs. He was one of the youngest of the seven-person committee that revised the 1991 edition of The Sacred Harp, today's most popular edition among singers nationwide.

In 2003, in an effort to bring this art form to new participants and to adapt it to modern times, Ivey and Jeff Sheppard co-founded Camp Fasola in Anniston, Alabama, the first-ever summer school devoted to Sacred Harp singing. The week-long camp's popularity led to the creation of both youth and adult sessions. Students come from all over the country and abroad to attend. In 2012, Ivey established a Camp Fasola Europe session in Poland, where Sacred Harp has grown in popularity in recent years.

Ivey is the recipient of numerous apprenticeship grants through the Alabama Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. He has won national recognition among Sacred Harp singers, musicians, and scholars and in 2003 he participated with music producer T Bone Burnett to make the Sacred Harp recordings that were included on the soundtrack of the movie Cold Mountain. Ivey is a founding director of the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is the perpetuation and preservation of Sacred Harp singing and traditions.

David and his wife, Karen, have three adult children -- Allison, Richard, and Stuart -- who are also Sacred Harp singers.




[Video used courtesy of Jonathon Smith.]




Related Audio

National Heritage Fellow and Sacred Harp singer David Ivey both preserves the tradition and widens the circle.