The Georgia Roots Music Festival and the “Georgia Harmonies” Traveling Exhibition

Cover of booklet for "Georgia Harmonies: Celebrating Georgia Roots Music," 2012. Booklet designed by Debby Holcombe. Image courtesy of the Center for Public History, University of West Georgia.
Cover of booklet for “Georgia Harmonies: Celebrating Georgia Roots Music,” 2012. Booklet designed by Debby Holcombe. Image courtesy of the Center for Public History, University of West Georgia.

In June 2012 I wrote for the Southern Spaces Blog about the opening of “Georgia Harmonies,” a two year traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program in collaboration with the Georgia Humanities Council. In the blog post, I describe how “the exhibit focuse[d] on the connections between musical cultures and place.” In addition to a small museum exhibition, “Georgia Harmonies” included a variety of “[e]vents and performances at each of the small towns at which the exhibit stop[ped] featur[ing] musics with historical ties to the town and region, and present-day roots in the area,” including several Sacred Harp singings.1

On Saturday I organized a Sacred Harp singing for the concluding event of the touring exhibition, a day-long “Georgia Roots Music Festival” at the Woodruff Arts Center in downtown Atlanta. After an introduction by Jared Wright of the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia, I taught a brief singing school, which led into an hour-long singing. Thirty-five Sacred Harp singers from across Georgia (with a little help from Tennessee) were joined by over one hundred festival attendees for what turned out to be quite a strong singing.

Micah Roberts leads during the Sacred Harp singing at the Georgia Roots Music Festival, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 18, 2014. Photograph by Sam Culpepper.
Micah Roberts leads during the Sacred Harp singing at the Georgia Roots Music Festival, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 18, 2014. Photograph by Sam Culpepper.
Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock teach a singing school at Long Cane Baptist Church, near LaGrange, Georgia, October 27, 2014.
Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock teach a singing school at Long Cane Baptist Church, near LaGrange, Georgia, October 27, 2014. Photograph by Ann Gray.

In addition to introducing Sacred Harp singing to Georgians across the state, “Georgia Harmonies” events proved engaging to the Sacred Harp singers who participated. As I wrote for the Southern Spaces Blog, the events led white Sacred Harp singers “to meet, share histories, and compare and contrast our musical practices” with participants in the a black shape-note gospel singing style called “note singing.” Exhibition events also brought singers to locations with historical or civic importance, ranging from the Woodruff Arts Center (Atlanta’s premier arts institution) to the Long Cane Baptist Church near LaGrange (which J. L. White identified in 1920 as the site of the first Sacred Harp convention in 1845), where Lauren Bock and I taught a singing school in conjunction with another of the exhibition’s stops.

Notes

  1. Public Sacred Harp singings were held in conjunction with the Calhoun, Perry, Waycross, and LaGrange tour stops. The Bremen stop included a concert featuring West Georgia shape-note singing styles, among them Sacred Harp singing. The LaGrange stop’s singing was preceded by a singing school I co-taught with Lauren Bock.

Upcoming Singing Schools

On Thursday, September 12, I’ll be teaching a Sacred Harp singing school during a session of an American popular music class taught by Tracey Laird at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. The class meets from 2–3:15 pm in Presser Hall’s Maclean Auditorium.

I’ll also be teaching a singing school in Dahlonega, Georgia, from 5:30–8 pm on Wednesday, September 18, at the Georgia Mountain Unitarian Universalist Church. The singing school will be held in conjunction with a class on the history of Appalachian music at the University of North Georgia taught by Barry Whittemore.

Both singing schools are open to the public. Come join us!

Sacred Harp Singing School at the Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina

On Saturday April 6, 2013 I will be teaching a singing school at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina. Co-presented by the Cameron Art Museum and WHQR Public Radio, the day will begin with an hour-long introduction to Sacred Harp singing at 10 am. Following a break we’ll spend the rest of the day singing from The Sacred Harp, stopping for lunch at noon. Thanks to Cleve Callison for organizing the event. If you’re in the Wilmington area, please join us on the sixth!

Singing School at the Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Convention

Lauren Bock and I will be teaching a singing school in Portland, Oregon on October 20 at the Fall session of the Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Convention. Our singing school will focus on the importance of listening while singing and will touch on accent, leading, and aspects of singing style. The Pacific Northwest Convention is free and open to the public. Come see us later this month in Oregon.

Singing School at North Georgia College and State University

I’ve been invited by the Rev. Dr. Barry Whittemore to teaching a singing school on October 3 for his seminar on the history of religion in Appalachia at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Georgia. The singing school will be held from 5:30–8:00 at the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church. All are welcome to attend.

Camp Fasola Summer Sessions

I’ll be teaching this summer at both the adult- and youth-emphasis sessions of Camp Fasola. My classes this year include sessions on leading (with Judy Caudle and Cassie Allen), composing, the role of the arranging committee in Sacred Harp, and the rudiments of music (I’ll be teaching rudiments at the youth session of camp with Lauren Bock). Camp Fasola—Adult Emphasis will be held June 10–14 in Double Springs, Alabama. Camp Fasola—Youth Emphasis will be held July 2–6 in Anniston, Alabama.

Singing School at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy

Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy Singing School
Poster for the Screening, Singing School, and All-Day Singing.

On April 13–14 I will join Matt and Erica Hinton, co-directors of the movie Awake My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne Florida for a weekend of Sacred Harp singing including a singing school, screening of the Hintons’ film, and all-day singing.

The weekend will begin with the film screening, followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers, on Friday morning. In the evening, I will lead a singing school, teaching the rudiments of Sacred Harp singing to students at the Academy and interested members of the public. The next day we will hold an all-day Sacred Harp singing from 9:30–3:00.

The weekend has been made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation for Brevard.

J. S. James, Leading, Composition, and Starting a Singing – Classes at Camp Fasola

I taught several classes this June and July at the two sessions of Camp Fasola, a weeklong summer camp for learning Sacred Harp singing, history, and traditions held in Alabama.
With Aldo Ceresa, I co-taught a class on the music and historical context of the revision of The Sacred Harp by J. S. James in 1911. Our class mixed singing with the telling of stories about James and his collaborators and rivals. The class was timed to mark the hundredth anniversary of the publication of the “James Book.”

I also taught an intermediate class on leading songs at Sacred Harp singings, moderated a discussion on starting, feeding, and maintaining a regular or annual singing, and led a session where singers led and discussed collaborative Sacred Harp composition exercises and new songs they had written in the styles of The Sacred Harp. 

Attendance at Camp was quite high this year and the campers came from across the United States as well as from Canada and several European countries. The campers ranged from singers with over 60 years of experience singing from The Sacred Harp to those who had never attended a singing. As always, teaching such a motivated and diverse group of learners was an enriching and enjoyable experience.