Category Archives: Read the Old Paths

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

Our Debt to George Pullen Jackson

Introduction At the 1965 session of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association, held in Nashville, music educator Irving Wolfe delivered a speech on George Pullen Jackson’s contributions to Sacred Harp. Jackson, whose series of books and articles published between 1926 … Continue reading

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In the Footsteps of Lee Andrew McGraw

It was a warm, sunny afternoon in early summer 2009. Sitting in the garden with my brand new copy of The Sacred Harp I was following the advice in the rudiments to open the book at random and say the … Continue reading

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Uncle Tom Denson’s Last Lesson: Observations and Impressions of a Son

Introduction: Observations and Impressions of a Grandson From the earliest years of my life I have heard of my grandfather, Tom Denson. “Pappy Denson,” “Dad Thomas,” “Uncle Tom,” “Professor Denson,” T. J. Denson, Thomas Jackson Denson, and “Mr. Denson” are … Continue reading

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“Melancholy Day”: Letters of Condolence after the Death of Thomas Jackson Denson

Editors’ Note: Sacred Harp singers from across the South wrote to Paine Denson expressing their condolences and sharing their memories after the death of his father, singing school teacher, leader, and composer Thomas Jackson Denson. T. J.’s death on September 14, … Continue reading

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“There Are More Singings Now Than Ever Before”: Hugh McGraw Addresses the Harpeth Valley Singers

Editors’ note: In 1964, Hugh McGraw, then executive secretary of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, gave a talk on the past, present, and future of Sacred Harp singing for the Harpeth Valley, Tennessee, Sacred Harp singers. His audience included prominent … Continue reading

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William Walker: Carolina Contributor to American Music

Introduction When it comes to the hymnody of the nineteenth century South, The Sacred Harp often comes to mind. After all, The Sacred Harp is still celebrated in singing practically every weekend across the United States. One singing school teacher … Continue reading

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Aunt Ruth’s Bible

My aunt Jerusha Henrietta Denson was born on July 5th, 1893 at Carrollton, Georgia. She was called “Rush” by her family. At school her name was changed to Ruth, which stuck for the rest of her life. She was one … Continue reading

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The Cullman Courthouse Singings

Editor’s Note: This essay on Sacred Harp singing in the Cullman County Courthouse is excerpted from Buell Cobb’s forthcoming Sacred Harp memoir. Thanks to Buell for permission to include it in this issue of the Newsletter. It is no longer—as it … Continue reading

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In Search of Silas Mercer Brown

As some will know I was fortunate enough to retire from work in July 2011, escaping in the nick of time before my employer revised the retirement age upwards by a number of years. What better way to celebrate than … Continue reading

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Picturing Song Leaders in Nineteenth-Century America

One of the things that seems to intrigue new singers is the role of the leader, standing in the center of the hollow square beating time. Many assume that this practice is unique to Sacred Harp singing, but evidence from … Continue reading

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