23 October 2018

Sacred Harp in the Bitter Southerner - and in Dublin

With Sacred Harp Dublin due to celebrate Isaac Watts Day* just a month from now (Saturday 24 November), the Bitter Southerner online magazine publishes today Chuck Reece's article 'Let everybody sing' about the ancient, living Sacred Harp tradition and the communities that it forms. Reece grew up in the north Georgia mountains where all-day singing conventions and dinner on the ground were a major part of life: the conventions

represented refuge for certain people — folks like me who could barely sit through a sermon, squirming at the threats of hellfire and brimstone, but who still wanted to touch the divine, whatever that was. Singing conventions were for folks who preferred that music help them reach the divine.

And this lies at the root of its widening appeal; Reece describes those who came to a convention at Big Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Alpharetta, Georgia:

People from all over the world will converge on this tiny church for two days of nothing but singing and food. Germans. Irishmen, Irishwomen, Irishchildren. People with varying levels of melanin. Jews. Gentiles. Muslims. Even atheists, for God’s sake.

The article, with audio examples supplied by Myke Johns and photographs by Johnathon Kelso, is a fine introduction to the Sacred Harp world, with a link to the Sacred Harp singing website and the Matt and Erica Hinton film Awake my soul: the story of the Sacred Harp. Recommended.

*Isaac Watts (1674-1748), 'Godfather of English hymnody', is credited with writing some 750 hymns. The celebration this year will be on the day before the 270th anniversary of his death, and will be held from 14.00 to 17.30 in the Robert Emmet Community Development Centre on Usher St., Dublin 8.

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