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UM School of Music Co-Hosts 35th Annual Sacred Harp Singing This Sunday

photo courtesy of the Anthology of American Folk Music
photo courtesy of the Anthology of American Folk Music

The University of Mississippi School of Music is co-hosting 35th annual Sacred Harp singing this Sunday at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center.

courtesy of YAC
courtesy of YAC

The 35th annual all-day Sacred Harp singing began at 9:45 a.m. sharp this morning. This annual community gathering of singing is sponsored by Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the University of Mississippi department of music.

Wayne Andrews, director of Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, said, “The sacred harp singing is a community event open to all. These types of events date back to colonial times. Come for the singing and stay for the community pot luck!”

The style of singing at this gathering emphasizes participation over performance. Participants sit in a gathering that creates a hollow square. They sing according to whoever of the participants is standing within the square to choose songs and keep the beat with his or her hand.

Unlike the name of the event there are no harps or instruments accompanying. In fact the name Sacred Harp is from the 1844 songbook published by B.F. White and E.J. King titled The Sacred Harp.

This singing style is from singing schools in the American colonial period and especially preserved in the rural South. Types of songs sung are psalms, fuging tunes and odes and anthems from the first American composers from 1770 to 1810 as well as folk songs and revival hymns from 1810 to 1860. The current 1991 edition of the old book contains songs in these aforementioned styles by living composers.

The gathering takes place annually on every second Sunday of March with singers coming in from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee to name a few states. Below is a video of the traditional gathering by Stanely Wise taped March 2013 of Sarah Tidwell taking a turn at leading.

There is still time to attend this community gathering until it ends at 3 p.m. today. The potluck will be served at noon when the singers take a break.

To read more into this traditional gathering visit this website by Warren Steel, professor of music and Southern culture at University of Mississippi.

Callie Daniels is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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