The Makers of the Sacred Harp

By David Warren Steel with Richard H. Hulan

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The long awaited companion to The Sacred Harp, this book is a comprehensive guide to the texts and tunes of our songbook. This authoritative reference work investigates the roots of The Sacred Harp, the central collection of the deeply influential and long-lived southern tradition of shape-note singing. Where other studies of the Sacred Harp have focused on the sociology of present-day singers and their activities, David Warren Steel and Richard H. Hulan concentrate on the regional culture that produced The Sacred Harp in the nineteenth century and delve deeply into history of its authors and composers. They trace the sources of every tune and text in the Sacred Harp, from the work of B. F. White, E. J. King, and their west Georgia contemporaries who helped compile the original collection in 1844 to the contributions by various composers to the 1936 to 1991 editions.

The Makers of the Sacred Harp also includes analyses of the textual influences on the music–including metrical psalmody, English evangelical poets, American frontier preachers, camp meeting hymnody, and revival choruses–and essays placing the Sacred Harp as a product of the antebellum period with roots in religious revivalism. Drawing on census reports, local histories, family Bibles and other records, rich oral interviews with descendants, and Sacred Harp Publishing Company records, this volume reveals new details and insights about the history of this enduring American musical tradition.

The Makers of the Sacred Harp fills a significant gap in the American music history literature by investigating the biographies of two centuries of American composers and poets who have contributed to the shape-note hymnody repertoire. It will be invaluable to American hymnologists and contemporary Sacred Harp singers.
—Kiri Miller, author of Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism

David Warren Steel is an associate professor of music and southern culture at the University of Mississippi. Richard H. Hulan is an independent scholar of American folk hymnody.

  • Paperback and Hardcover, 340 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • ISBN: 978-0-252-07760-9

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