The 17th annual Harrods Creek/Bob Meek Memorial Convention was held April 28–29, 2012 at Harrods Creek Baptist Church in Brownsboro—just outside Louisville, KY. We were blessed to have singers from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Colorado, and Minnesota in attendance.
The singing was started by Bob Meek in 1991 as a one day singing, and expanded into a two-day convention in 1999. He was an ardent supporter of singings and spreading the word about Sacred Harp, going as far as having “FASOLA” and “SHAPES” as license plates. Upon Bob’s passing on January 12, 2011, “Bob Meek Memorial” was added to honor his memory and commitment to shape note singing. Our hope is that the convention will be a long standing tribute to him.
The original church where the singing is held was built in the 1820s. The stone walls and wood floors provide a resonant room in which to sing. Members of the church have preserved this historic structure and it has been placed on the National Historic Register. Other features of the grounds include a pond, a playground and a modern (1960s) church building.
The weekend started with our traditional Fish FRYday at Vine Street Baptist Church. David Waters (my brother) catches, cleans and fries around 100 pounds of catfish every year for the dinner. I and other family members provide sides, desserts and drinks. Several out of towners make it a point to attend the Fish Fry every year.
One of the unique aspects of this singing is the use of three books: The 1991 and Cooper editions of The Sacred Harp, and the Southern Harmony. Leaders can call from whichever book they choose. This means we sing fewer songs than in a straight red book singing, but the variety offers singers the opportunity to lead something they have never tried before. Out of 140 songs led over the weekend, twenty-two were from Southern Harmony and twenty-three from the Cooper book. The singing moved along pretty smoothly despite the constant switching of books.
On Saturday, there were over eighty singers in attendance. The class was strong, especially with a full bass section and an experienced front tenor bench. Highlights for me included John Bayer leading “Dove of Peace” from Southern Harmony and Joan Aldridge and Elene Stovall leading “Ninety Fifth” (p. 36b from The Sacred Harp) with Darrell Swarens. It was good to see some of our wayward folk, Stephanie Fida and Liz Meitzler (among others) who have left the area but returned to sing with us.
Lunch both days was organized by Pat Meek and her crew. We are blessed to have a group of non-singers who are willing to help all weekend. Leftover catfish, twenty-five pounds of beer-marinated meatballs and forty pounds of smoked pork butt were highlights of lunch with an array of sides and desserts. If you left hungry, it was your own fault!
After the singing on Saturday, there was a tailgate jam session of sorts, with Vic Whisman, Greg Howard, Stephanie Fida, and Nikkos Pappas showing off their instrumental skills on fiddle, banjo and bones. Close by, historic LaGrange, KY offered a nice respite for singers. Several singers strolled along Main Street enjoying the shops and local car show. The Saturday night chili supper featured Bob Meek’s recipe with (gasp!) spaghetti, a tradition in this region. We then adjourned to sing selections from the forthcoming Shenandoah Harmony.
With a shortage of basses on Sunday, the treble section stepped up to the plate especially in the afternoon on “Jacob’s Vision” (p. 551) and “Save Lord or We Perish” (p. 224) among others. The altos were strong all weekend. I particularly enjoyed Peggy Brayfield leading a slow tempo “Great Roll Call” out the Cooper book [ed.: originally printed in the 1911 James edition of the Original Sacred Harp]. Darrell Swarens and Jim Herr offered a moving Memorial Lesson.
Many thanks go out to the Pat and the Kitchen Crew, food toters, pew movers, and everyone who made the singing possible. Bob would be proud!
Photographs by Darrell Swarens.