Category Archives: Read the Old Paths

Stories about people and events central to the history of our music.

The Twentieth Century Looks at William Billings

Editor’s Note: When Raymond C. Hamrick returned to Sacred Harp singing after World War II he was immediately drawn to the music of the eighteenth-century New England composer, William Billings. Billings also piqued Hamrick’s scholarly curiosity as this article—first published … Continue reading

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The Curious History of Shape-Notes

Editor’s Note: In this essay, first published in The Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp News 2, no. 4 (September 20, 1965), Hamrick places shape-notes in the context of American vocal music history, from their advent in the colonial era through the twentieth … Continue reading

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Sojourn in the South: Billings Among the Shape-Noters

Editor’s Note: Raymond C. Hamrick contributed this article to a 1996 special issue of the Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning 7, no. 1, devoted to eighteenth-century New England composer William Billings. In an April 2014 interview, Hamrick recalled … Continue reading

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“My Interest Was in the Background of the Music”:
Raymond C. Hamrick and Alan Lomax in Conversation

Editor’s Note: Alan Lomax interviewed Raymond C. Hamrick during a break in 1982 June memorial singing at Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church in Bremen, Georgia. An outspoken and prolific folklorist, Lomax attended the convention with a large crew to record … Continue reading

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Grandpa McWhorter: Singer and Civil Servant

The issuance early last year of the reproduction of the 1911 Original Sacred Harp (the James Book) caused me to reflect upon the extraordinary influence that historic old book and its predecessors had on common community life throughout the deep … Continue reading

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The W. T. Gwin Old Harp Singers Trophy: A Unique Piece of Sacred Harp Memorabilia from Mississippi

An Unexpected Object on the Front Porch A unique piece of Sacred Harp memorabilia came to light recently. On April 13 of this year, my wife Anne and I arrived at our home in Oxford, Mississippi, to find an unexpected … Continue reading

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Sacred Harp Singing: A Way of Wife

Editor’s Note: This article was initially published in the Huntsville Sacred Harp Newsletter, no. 18 (February 1994), edited by David Ivey. Thanks to David and to the author for suggesting it for inclusion in this issue. How many of you … Continue reading

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The Advancement of Sacred Harp Music

Introduction An exceptional singer and unparalleled supporter of Sacred Harp, Ruth Denson Edwards was also one of the most eloquent chroniclers of the music and its community. Singers today who were not fortunate enough to have known her might recognize her … Continue reading

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American Tunes in West Gallery Sources

The conventional model of the flow of hymn tunes across the Atlantic is that music went from the United Kingdom to America in the years before the American Revolution and that American tunes came across to Britain in the 1860s … Continue reading

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Elphrey Heritage: Northern Contributor to the Nineteenth-century Sacred Harp

All of the direct contributors to the nineteenth-century editions of The Sacred Harp lived in Georgia or Alabama with one exception: Elphrey Heritage, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.1 Heritage contributed two songs to the 1870 fourth edition of The Sacred Harp: “Warning” … Continue reading

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The Chattahoochee Convention, August 1, 1880: Memorial for Benjamin Franklin White

Benjamin Franklin White, co-compiler of The Sacred Harp, prolific composer, and the person largely responsible for building the traditions that continue to define Sacred Harp singing, died on December 5, 1879. The following year, the Chattahoochee Musical Convention, at that … Continue reading

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A Happy Life: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing by Barrett Ashley

On Sunday, July 4, 1993, after the end of the second day of the Henagar-Union Sacred Harp Singing Convention in Henagar, Alabama, Chicago Sacred Harp singer Jerry Enright sat down with Barrett Ashley, a singer from Collinsville, Alabama, and one … Continue reading

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