Traveling Home

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Traveling Home

Postby James » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:55 pm

20 Years a Shape-Note Singer
Reflections on Traveling Home
By
Kiri Miller

First, thanks to Haruo for drawing my attention to this book. It is a nice addition to my other books on the history and life of shape-note singing, and a well written popularization of her disertation.

Kiri is an atheist, a yankee and a late comer to singing in the hollow square from the Sacred Harp (harp being both a book and the human voice). One of the centerpieces of her research is a poll of singers she did back in the 90's. I responded to the poll and wondered then what would become of it. Now I know.

I give Kiri full credit for being a better musician and a more experienced singer than I am. I felt right at home reading her book. She mostly gets things right. As a singer, a southerner and a Christian, however I was sometimes just a little irritated for being treated as a object in a cultural anthropology exercise, but this exercise is the principle value of the book. No other written record probes the inner workings of the hollow square in relation to the personal feelings of the singers in relation to the blending of disparate people who would normally not associate with each other under any circumstances. But put an oblong tune book in one's hand and lead them to a seat in the hollow square and the gay atheist and the homophobic Christian can sit side by side and raise their voices in praise to God. Kiri tells us how this is done. Reading her book makes me believe we should start a Sacred Harp singing in Congress. Maybe then Congress could find a way to get its work done.

Those of you who may have experienced Sacred Harp singing over a period of time may have noticed the emphasis placed on leading from the center of the square. Kiri covers the musical, physical and psychological aspects of leading quite well. I do not lead often because I find it stressful and because it interferes with the singing experience for me.

One aspect of singing that Kiri does not cover in depth is the risk to which the atheist/agnostic puts his or her soul. On the old mail list that Kiri references often, we had a lengthy thread that lived for some months about the testimonies of singers drawn to faith through their singing. I have a book on the camp-meeting revivals that refers to the “better singers” surrounding the sinners on the mourner's bench and “singing them through to faith.” It seems the old techniques still work.

Another aspect that seems off the mark to me is the frequent references to Appalachia. Sacred Harp is not the book of choice in the high-up hills. There it gives way to Christian Harmony and New Harp of Columbia. There one finds a different tribe similar in the visible attributes but different at the core. It is the tribe that first adopted me into the hollow square and the one in which I most feel at home.

In closing, I add one more thought. For a book lover like me who has more books on singing, Southern culture and Appalachia than any other subjects, the bibliography alone is almost worth the price of the book.
Last edited by James on Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:49 am

James wrote: One aspect of singing that Kiri does not cover in depth is the risk to which the atheist/agnostic puts his or her soul.

Interesting wording... salvation as threat.

Glad you liked the book, James.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby James » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:41 pm

From an atheist's perspective, one might concieve it as a threat. One of the testimonies on the old mail list was given by an agnostic who was singing in a Catholic choir for Saturday mass and in a Baptist choir on Sunday morning. He wanted to sing enough that he was willing to put himself at risk of a potentially life changing experience.

Another was a man who had grown up in church, had sworn off all religion for all time due to his experience as an undercover cop for 10 years. When I met him, at a singing, we sat side by side where he hit me with all the evidence that homosexuals were an abomination to God. At the time we met he was finishing up his M.Div. work at an extremely conservative Baptist seminary. Music can provoke change.

And some, like a singer in California, just slide into transformation peacefully. She was an atheist until she started singing shape-notes. After some months of singing in the hollow square, she was out on her Sunday morning long run and ran by a Presbyterian Church and heard them singing a hymn. For some length of time, she timed her rest break to sit outside the open windows and listen to the singing of the opening hymn, then progressed to slipping in the door just in time for the hymn and then back out. This progressed to dress appropriately and attend the whole service which provoked membership and a regular seat in the choir

Or the Mennonite who left it all behind for a modern life style until the old Watts texts grabbed her by the soul and would not let her go. She told of her return to faith while finishing up her seminary studies.

And on it goes and I am sure is still happening. One ethnic Jewish lady wears a Star of David necklace to singings to remind her agnostic soul where it belongs if it must belong anywhere. As the chaplain of the convention she prayed a prayer that brought lound Amens from the Primitive Baptists.

This music has power.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:07 am

You say your convention sings from the Christian Harmony rather than Sacred Harp? Isn't that a 7-shape book? Are the harmonies of the fasola type (i.e. melody in the tenor, widely distributed harmonies, each line basically a melody line of its own (at least potentially)?

Are you familiar with An American Christmas Harp? This is a 4-shape fasola tunebook with all Christmas (or allied) texts published in Buckley, Washington (about 40 miles from Seattle). Here are some specimen pages (from the 3rd ed., 2009):

LENOX "Awake, awake, arise"
039.JPG

SAMANTHRA "See, see in the east a new glory ascends" + COOKHAM "Hark! the herald angels sing"
Samanthra-Cookham.JPG

BONNIE DOON "When marshaled on the nightly plain"
Bonnie Doon.JPG
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby James » Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:45 pm

Christian Harmony is a seven shape book. Many of the tunes and texts are identical to the Sacred Harp tunes. In her book, Kiri uses the term Tribe to discribe Sacred Harp singers. That being said, I belong to both tribes but sing Sacred Harp more often. Sacred Harp singing is 70 miles away. Christian Harmony singing is 400 miles away. Many singers sing from both books, and several times a year we have joint singings which gets interesting at times. Since Sacred Harp is the older book, SH singers are prone to think that joint singings should be run by SH rules. CH singers go back to rule one, which is that the class leader is in total control when he or she is in the center of the square. I have heard convention chairpersons call down a CH singer for beating time in four instead of two. There are other minor differences in style. The real difference in the two tribes is that CH singers are more humble in their singing and in their spirit. They tend to sing at slower tempos, lover volume and generally they are nicer people. I have been physically manhandled twice at SH singings because someone thought I was in the wrong place. That would never happen at a CH singing. CH people are simply nicer. The differences may be regional Black dirt deep south vs Appalachia.

I have sung from the Christmas Harp. Our SH singers frequently put aside their SH books to sing from AH during the advent/Christmas season.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:16 am

James wrote: I have been physically manhandled twice at SH singings because someone thought I was in the wrong place.
That sounds bizarre as well as impolite. You mean they thought you should be singing a different part, or they thought you were singing the right part but in the wrong quadrant, or what? I've never seen anything remotely like that, but then I've only been present at four singings (two as a participant, two as a spectator), and three of those in Seattle (which is pretty far from either the deep South or Appalachia). (The fourth was in Birmingham, but in the context of the Hymn Society convention, so probably not typical in many ways of that area.)
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby James » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:21 am

Both incidents, happened in Hoboken, GA at the Lee family singing.

In one, an older southern man, thought I should be sitting instead of standing. This was during a presentation of some kind not during singing. So instead of suggesting that I sit so that those behind me, also standing, could see better, he kicked me in the back of my knee. I sat.

In the other, a young visiting Yankee (mid-west) charged accross the square after the first hymn, grabbed me by the collar and pulled me up while saying that his sister, who was sitting before I sat next to her, needed to sit in my seat. The young lady was totally imbarassed but did change her seat.

I still do not understand the whys of either incident.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Ed Pettibone » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:22 am

James wrote:Christian Harmony is a seven shape book. Many of the tunes and texts are identical to the Sacred Harp tunes. In her book, Kiri uses the term Tribe to discribe Sacred Harp singers. That being said, I belong to both tribes but sing Sacred Harp more often. Sacred Harp singing is 70 miles away. Christian Harmony singing is 400 miles away. Many singers sing from both books, and several times a year we have joint singings which gets interesting at times. Since Sacred Harp is the older book, SH singers are prone to think that joint singings should be run by SH rules. CH singers go back to rule one, which is that the class leader is in total control when he or she is in the center of the square. I have heard convention chairpersons call down a CH singer for beating time in four instead of two. There are other minor differences in style. The real difference in the two tribes is that CH singers are more humble in their singing and in their spirit. They tend to sing at slower tempos, lover volume and generally they are nicer people. I have been physically manhandled twice at SH singings because someone thought I was in the wrong place. That would never happen at a CH singing. CH people are simply nicer. The differences may be regional Black dirt deep south vs Appalachia.

I have sung from the Christmas Harp. Our SH singers frequently put aside their SH books to sing from AH during the advent/Christmas season.


Ed: James, In writing of the differences between SH and CH groups, when you say " The differences may be regional Black dirt deep south vs Appalachia" you lose me somewhat, "Black dirt deep south" is a new phrase to me. Although I have lived in SC, GA, Al, MS,& Fl, this Yankee born and raised in the mid west (who has never lived in Yankee territory) tends to think of the deep south as being synonymous with RED clay, Mississippi being a primary exception. Florida being the southern most state does not qualify it as being "Deep South", far too much influence from snow birds and transplants.

While I have heard shaped note singing in all of the above states as well as in KY and TN and a few non southern states, the preponderance of my experience with it has been in Appalachia, again KY & TN, specifically the eastern 1/3 of those two states .

When you write "Black dirt deep south" of what area are you speaking?
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:16 pm

Interesting accounts. I've got a old shaped note hymnal that belonged to a relative. But I had no idea they were still in use or that shaped note singing had any kind of following much less an organizational structure.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:20 pm

Leland: And Ed when you write "shaped note singing" do you mean Sacred Harp or other fasola books (please don't use SH to mean "Sacred Harp" because two of the best known of the other fasola books are the "Southern Harmony" and the "Social Harp", and I get confused easily) or do you mean Christian Harp or other seven-shape books?

And James, while those two incidents are rather unpleasant (though I hope the lasting damage was only psychological) and definitely memorably weird, I think it might be a bit unfair to generalize from them to describe all Sacred Harp singings and singers.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:37 pm

Tim, Sacred Harp singing is a widespread activity; there are Sacred Harp singings in Japan, Germany, Poland, as well as in most parts of the English-speaking world (with the largest number of participants and singings in the southeastern US). And new songs and arrangements are indeed produced in these groups, although the vast majority of them use one or another of the editions of the Sacred Harp as their standard repertoire. They are primarily participatory, and having participated I can say it's a powerful experience.

What book is it you have? If I don't have it and you ever want to part with it, my hymnal library would love to have it. I don't actually have a copy of a Sacred Harp edition, and I should really get a couple (Denson and Cooper apparently being the most commonly used), but I do have a (reprint of the) Southern Harmony, which was a forerunner of the Christian Harmony that James refers to singing from.

Sing the Trumpet is an online magazine that publishes a lot of new fasola (i.e. four-shape) compositions. My favorite is the Polish setting of Father Mapple's Hymn from chapter 9 of Moby Dick, called OKÓLNIK; it's on p. 23 (numbered p. 47) of this issue.

Seven-shape printing is common among conservative Mennonites all over the world; I have Mennonite shaped-note hymnals in English and Spanish. However, it looks to me like most of the arrangements are ordinary four-part harmony of the northern, Lowell Mason variety, not the special distributed harmonies typical of the Appalachian and Deep South traditions of fasola singing.

Incidentally, "fasola" is so called because the diatonic scale, instead of being sung "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti(-do)" as we probably all learned to do from Rogers and Hammerstein, is sung "fa-so-la-fa-so-la-mi(-fa)". And in most of these traditions, which are overwhelmingly a cappella, the custom is to sing the whole tune through in notes before singing the first verse in words.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby James » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:50 pm

Thanks, Haruo for covering the technical basics of shape-note singing.

To clarify a few points.

I reported two incidents of rudeness for what they were-anomolies. I have met hundreds of shap-note singers over the years and have encountered three instances of gross rudeness. These instances stand out because of their rarity. As a standard for picking your friends, you could do far worse than limiting your friends to those who belong to one of the shape-note tribes (Kiri's term). Reguardless of race, creed, party affliation or sexual orientation they are good people.

I used SH in context so that should not be a problem, but there are other SH shape-note books.

Black dirt south is my own term (and I confess may not be litterally accurate). My attempt in using it was to distinguish the flat land slave based agricultural south from Appalachia. If you remember your history, during the Late Unpleasantness, southern appalachia sent many of her sons north to fight for the union and the region was involved in its own internal cival wars just as it was during the Revolutionary War.

Kiri confines her study to Sacred Harp.



Tim, if your shape note book is 19th century and oblong you could, depending on condition and title, have something with significant monetary value. Look it up ABE.com to get an idea of what you have. If it is a modern form hymnal or song book it could still be worth $5-100.

In approximate order of number of current users, the shape-note books in use today are:

Sacred Harp-1844 (4 shape)
Christian Harmony-1873 (7 shape) used mostly in southern appalachia, with outcroppings in Mississippi and East Texas
Cooper Book-1902 (4 shape) a varient of Sacred Harp used mostly in south GA, North FL and along the gulf coast. It contains a lot of gospel song/hymn material.
Harmonia Sacra-1851 (7 shape) confined mostly to the Mennonites of the Shenandoah Valley.
Southern Harmony-1835 (4 shape) used primarily at two annual singings. The Big Sing in Benton, Ky is primarily an historic preservation using the rules of the first singing there. The primary rule is that only men can lead. This rule may have changed by now. The second singing is the William Walker memorial singing in Sharpsburg, SC. This singing uses Sacred Harp and Southern Harmony.
New Harp of Columbia-used primarily in E. Tenn.
Missouri Harmony-1820 (4 shape) Currently used primarily in Missouri and the Shenandoah Vally. This was the tune book from which Abraham Lincoln sang.
Social Harp- used primarily in NE GA.
Social Harp-facsimily reprint by U. of Georgia press is occasionally using a UGA reprint.

Of these, only Sacred Harp, Christian Harmony and Harmonia Sacra can be considered uninterupted living traditions using books which have been revised with inclusion of new material and in print continually from its first printing. All the others are available in modern facsimily reprints.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:21 pm

Hauro,

I'll look around for it. It may still be in a box from my most recent move. Or, now that I think about, it my be in my mother's possession as something she received from my Grandmother. I'll see what I can find.
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Ed Pettibone » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:26 pm

Ed: And Tim do you still have recitatives in Missouri? I am wondering how you missed out on the Shape Note Singing there .

Such as

St. Louis Shape Note Singers
http://www.stlfasola.org/
The St. Louis Shape Note Singers host the annual two-day Missouri Convention each year on the 2nd Sunday in March and the Saturday before, which will be ...

columbiafasola - Columbia Shape-Note Singers Home
columbiafasola.missouri.org/
Information about shape-note singing, the dates and places for twice-monthly singings in Columbia, MO, and contact information.

Kaw Valley Shape Note Singing Association
http://www.kawshapenote.org/
Join us for our annual special shape-note sing at Missouri Town 1855. We will sing from 1:30 to 3:30pm. Missouri Town 1855 is a living history site, so unlike our ...

Missouri State Sacred Harp Singing Convention (2009-2010 ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5ieBlcPoks

Mar 14, 2010 ... This video features a brief introduction to shape note singing as well as musical excerpts from the 2009 and 2010 Missouri State Sacred Harp ...

Shape note - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_note
Shape notes are a music notation designed to facilitate congregational and .... recently moribund 19th-century four-shape songbooks, such as The Missouri ...

fasola.org - Sacred Harp and Shape Note singing
fasola.org/singings/
The best way to learn more about Sacred Harp singing is to experience it in person. ... Sacred Harp Singing in Colorado · Rocky Mountain Shapenote Singers ... Indiana Sacred Harp singings; Minnesota—Singing in the Twin Cities; Missouri ...

Note: You can find it almost any place you go.

Regular Local Singings
http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~mudws/regular.html
5 days ago ... Lists regular Sacred Harp and other shape-note singings occurring four or ... If we have left out a singing, or if any information is incorrect, please notify ... MH ( Missouri Harmony, 2005 Edition); NHC (New Harp of Columbia) ...

Chapter 1- Tunebooks, Music Books, and Hymnals
http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~mudws/resource/chap01.html

For more information, check the New Harp of Columbia Shape Note Singers Web site. The Missouri Harmony, 2005 Edition, compiled originally by Allen Carden ...
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:54 pm

What can I say Ed, I was an orchestra guy. I played violin in High School and and some in college. No shaped notes there.

Also I'm realizing that I've not lived in the St. Louis area since 1986. So a lot can be missed in 26 years. :D
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Sacred Harp ist a cappella Heavy Metal.

Postby Haruo » Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:07 am

Listen to the YouTube on the homepage of this Bremen (Germany) Sacred Harp group. Try to imagine how one could maintain one's atheism while participating in such singing. ;-)
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:57 am

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Re: Sacred Harp ist a cappella Heavy Metal.

Postby Ed Pettibone » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:42 am

Haruo wrote:Listen to the YouTube on the homepage of this Bremen (Germany) Sacred Harp group. Try to imagine how one could maintain one's atheism while participating in such singing. ;-)


Ed: Here is a good clip on the revival of this genre. https://sites.google.com/site/ohiovalleyshapes2/
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Haruo » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:26 pm

Thanks, Ed. I put it on my FB page and it is attracting viewers around the globe.
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Recent sacred harp piece/great pictures

Postby Stephen Fox » Thu May 02, 2013 6:36 pm

From the Oxford American. I had short chat with this fellow couple years ago at the Lodestar of Sacred Harp Singings, the Annual Saturday and Sunday before the 4th in Henegar, Alabama.

http://ourmaninthepews.tumblr.com/post/ ... thon-kelso
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Bud Oliver died Apri 18

Postby Stephen Fox » Thu May 30, 2013 4:35 pm

I was in the throes of pneumonia at the time and left the day before to go to S.C. to recuperate. I didn't know of his passing till a few days ago.

For about 30 years with his first cousin S.T. Reed, Bud was co director of the Piney Grove Singing on Lookout Mtn just south of Collinsville. He was a legend in the area and sacred harp community and was on first name basis with JFK Sec Defense Robert McNamara.

Former mayor of Collinsville, I mentioned him in a letter published in Baptists Today a few years ago re a remark he made about my Great Uncle Roscoe Jordan. Said back in the 40's they called Uncle Rock "Cake" cause he came to the singing for the dinner on the ground and the desserts.

Quite a character. April 2012 I took a pic of him at the Pine Grove singing with about 4 students from Samford, part of a group of about 15 who had come up that Sunday for the authentic singing.

Bud was the real Deal. S.T Reed's Dad and my Grandfather were first cousins, but Bud and I never figured what kin that made the two of us.
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Henegar Alabama's David Ivey receives NEA Award

Postby Stephen Fox » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:26 pm

I was in his singing Sunday week ago at Henegar. He has been awarded the National Endowment for the National Heritage Fellowship award. More later.
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Re: Henegar Alabama's David Ivey receives NEA Award

Postby KeithE » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:33 pm

Stephen Fox wrote:I was in his singing Sunday week ago at Henegar. He has been awarded the National Endowment for the National Heritage Fellowship award. More later.

Yes I heard about David’s award. Ellin Jimmerson getting awards as well for A Second Cooler.

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Re: Traveling Home

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:24 pm

I was encouraged when I happened across this (revived) thread on Sacred Harp and Kiri Miller's book Traveling Home. Got several comments I want to try to get in. May scatter out like a sawed-off shotgun.

First, I'll take the opportunity to invite you to the 158th anniversary East Texas Sacred Harp Convention, August 10 and 11, 2013. It is the oldest singing convention in Texas and the second oldest continuing Sacred Harp singing in the United States. More info can be found here:
http://www.rockerontheporch.us/easttexassingings/convention.html

Kiri's book is interesting and insightful (or at least I am assuming; I actually read her dissertation that the book is based on and haven't read the book). I agree with James that it is kind of peculiar to be the "goldfish in the bowl" that is being studied, when we think we're just regular folks. I can't agree with James that Christian Harmony singers are nicer people (not that they aren't nice). I think what is really at work in some of this perception is that there are so many people that think Sacred Harp must be sung a certain way, conventions must be run a certain way, and so forth (even when they can't agree on that certain way), whereas Christian Harmony singers aren't nearly as hung up on these things and may be used to more variation. So sometimes the "rule" aspect may get in the way of the "people" aspect. But most Sacred Harp singers that I know, with few exceptions, are really nice folk. James, I found your mention of being made to sit down interesting. One of our older singers wrote in a letter to George Pullen Jackson back in the 1940s about a trip she made to a singing convention at Atlanta, Georgia. She was highly incensed that someone told her to sit (she sang standing) and said it ruined her whole trip!

We have recently started two Christian Harmony singings in East Texas, but this book is not really a "native". The Cooper Sacred Harp book has been the common Texas book since the early 1900s, but we also use the Denson book. There is one other Sacred Harp that barely survived, getting down to one location in Georgia -- the 1911 edition by B. F. White's son J. L. White. It was reprinted in 2007 and is seeing a little bit of growth in use.

Leland, thanks for the plugs for Karen's Christmas Harp and The Trumpet. The Shenandoah Harmony is a very nice new book that has been produced by singers in the east: http://www.shenandoahharmony.com/.

Tim, shape-note books are used much more than those who don't use shape notes might suppose. Many churches, especially Church of Christ, Mennonite, and Primitive Baptist use them on a regular basis. In addition to these a cappella singing conventions mentioned in this thread, there are still several southern gospel style singing conventions which also use shaped note books (7-shape, as is most church song books).

Keith, I see you are in Huntsville and know David Ivey. I'll have to remember to be nice! :wink:
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Rvaughn
 
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Re: Traveling Home

Postby James » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:17 pm

Rvaughn, Thank you for your comments. I think you are right about Sacred Harp singers. They are much more into the customs of the square than the Christian Harmony singers are.

Unfortunately for us (Judy and me), our Sacred Harp group has morphed from an all are welcome Saturday afternoon group to a young people preferred Tuesday night group so our singing is limited to church and choir. If we could get to a singing within a two hour drive on a regular basis we would probably do it.
James North
CBF, Virginia
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