Introducing “Raymond Cooper Hamrick on The Sacred Harp,” Vol. 5, No. 2 of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter

The eleventh issue of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter features esteemed Sacred Harp singer, composer, and scholar Raymond C. Hamrick (1915–2014), a recipient of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company’s posthumous citation. The issue includes insightful essays by Hamrick himself, a video interview, and commentary on his many contributions to the Sacred Harp world.

Printable version of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 2 (9.7 MB PDF).

Our issue opens with South Georgia singer Mary Brownlee’s tribute to Hamrick, which eloquently evokes Hamrick’s courtly personality and significance to the South Georgia singing community. Jesse P. Karlsberg next offers an in-depth survey of Hamrick’s long life and wide-ranging involvement in Sacred Harp singing. The issue next turns to Hamrick’s own writing, sharing groundbreaking essays by the singer on Sacred Harp’s history and practices, some never before published. We begin with Hamrick’s two 1965 contributions to the Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp News: a report on growing appreciation of the work of composer William Billings and an evocative survey of role of shape-notes in American music history. The issue then turns to Hamrick’s previously unpublished 1972 study of tempo in The Sacred Harp, the first comprehensive examination of the subject. Hamrick’s 1986 contributions to the National Sacred Harp Newsletter follow. The singer’s celebrated study of the methods and results of pitchers at Sacred Harp singings appeared in vol. 2, no. 2 of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter with an introduction by Ian Quinn. We include it in the print edition of this issue. We also reprint Hamrick’s convincing articulation of the value of shape-notes for composers. We next feature Hamrick’s 1996 return to the music of his favorite composer, William Billings, with an essay published in a special issue of the peer-reviewed music education journal, The Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning. This section of the Newsletter concludes with two additional previously unpublished contributions: an essay Hamrick wrote in the mid-1990s, offering a thorough insider’s account of the process of revising The Sacred Harp, and Alan Lomax’s brief 1982 interview with Hamrick, in which the Sacred Harp singer seems to surprise the veteran folklorist with his informed analysis of Sacred Harp practices. Our issue concludes with two more essays on Hamrick’s contributions to Sacred Harp singing. John Hollingsworth describes the story of editing and publishing The Georgian Harmony, a tunebook featuring nearly two-hundred of Hamrick’s shape-note tunes. Finally, Shaun Jex recounts Hamrick’s longstanding generosity in sharing his knowledge and experience with others.

This issue of the Newsletter came together thanks to an especially large team of volunteers and the generosity of several editors and archivists. In addition to the many contributions of the Newsletter team of associate editor Nathan K. Rees and layout helpers Elaena Gardner, Leigh Cooper, and Jason Stanford, two singers—Marie Brandis of Portland, Oregon, and Justin Bowen of Nashville, Tennessee—transcribed essays written by Hamrick. Debra Madera and M. Patrick Graham of the Pitts Theology Library of Emory University, provided access to and scans of essays by Hamrick, correspondence, and tunebooks in the library’s Raymond Hamrick Papers. Nathan K. Rees also assisted in gathering and digitizing materials in the collection of the Sacred Harp Museum. Robert A. W. Dunn digitized copies of recordings testing submissions to the 1991 Edition in a private collection. Richard Colwell, founding editor of the Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning, Mary Leglar, past editor of Georgia Music News, and Timothy Reynolds, editor of the Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp News graciously permitted the reprinting of essays first published in these periodicals. Finally, Raymond C. Hamrick’s daughter Patti Hamrick Dancy combed her collection of family photographs and digitized many of the images of Hamrick with family and at singings that grace this issue’s essays. Thanks to her and to Susan Hamrick Hatfield for permission to enrich this tribute to their father through the inclusion of these photographs.

As always, the Newsletter team welcomes your comments on these articles and invites your suggestions of future article topics. Please get in touch.

Vol. 5, No. 2 Contents

Newsletter Team

  • Editor, Jesse P. Karlsberg
  • Associate Editor, Nathan K. Rees
  • Design (web edition): Leigh Cooper
  • Design (print edition): Elaena Gardner
  • Transcription assistance: Marie Brandis and Justin Bowen

About Jesse P. Karlsberg

Jesse P. Karlsberg is the vice president of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. He edits the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter. Originally from Boston, he lives in Atlanta and is senior digital scholarship strategist at Emory University.
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