Today the White House celebrates #BigBlockOfCheese day, reviving an open-house tradition dating back to President Andrew Jackson’s day. But for Sacred Harp singers, and Jeffersonians, the story of a 1,400-pound cheese at the White House recalls the even older story of Connecticut preacher John Leland’s journey to Washington to present a “mammoth cheese” (also weighing 1,400 pounds) to Thomas Jefferson at his inauguration. The event—and its retelling by Joseph Stephen James in the historical note accompanying “Bound for Canaan” on p. 82t of Original Sacred Harp—gave rise to the name “cheese notes” for James’s annotations. It’s great to see the White House bringing back such a cheesy tradition!
A short article of mine on the history of Sarah Lancaster’s song “The Last Words of Copernicus” appears in the Winter 2013 issue of the CDSS News. The essay provides context for the song, touching on the composition of its hymn text by Philip Doddridge, Lancaster’s life as a composer, the addition of an alto part in the early twentieth century, and the song’s subsequent life in the popular imagination thanks to the dissemination of a recording by Alan Lomax later sampled in a hit song by Bruce Springsteen.
This past Friday I participated in a concert at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium honoring the recipients of the 2013 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. David Ivey, Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association secretary and Camp Fasola co-founder, was among the awardees. I joined a group of
twenty-five twenty-seven Sacred Harp singers, mostly from Alabama and Georgia, who opened the concert singing four songs: “Idumea” (p. 47b in The Sacred Harp), “Florida” (p. 203), “Christian’s Farewell” (p. 347), and “Wayfaring Stranger” (p. 457). A videorecording of the 2013 NEA National Heritage Fellowships concert is available on the NEA website. Continue reading “NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert”
Nathan Rees has posted a recording of the 110th annual convention of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association that we held in Atlanta last weekend. The convention drew an audience of more than two hundred singers and listeners from the Atlanta area, fourteen states across the country, as well as singers from Ireland and Germany.
A particularly strong and lively pair of songs from the after-dinner session on Sunday are “Montgomery” (p. 189 in The Sacred Harp, led by Ted Mercer from Chicago) and “Panting for Heaven” (p. 384, led by Coy Ivey from Henagar, AL, father of David Ivey, recipient this year of the NEA’s National Heritage Award). Or, for something slower, you could listen to Lauren and me bringing the class back to order for the last hour of the day on Sunday singing “Devotion” (p. 48t).
Thanks to all who worked to make the convention a success. Next year’s convention will be held at Union Missionary Baptist Church, west of Warrior, Alabama.
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!
Congratulations to David Ivey on his receipt of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. David Ivey, co-founder with Jeff Sheppard of Camp Fasola, and member of the committee that revised the 1991 Edition of The Sacred Harp, is also secretary of the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association. David Ivey is the third Sacred Harp singer to be honored as a National Heritage Fellow and is the first since 1983, when Dewey Williams received the award in its second year. Hugh McGraw, Executive Secretary Emeritus of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, and head of the 1991 Edition’s music committee, received the award in 1982.
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!
My tune “Akerman” is included in the latest issue of The Trumpet. I wrote “Akerman” as a present for Laura Akerman in recognition of her thirty-five years at Emory. With help from John Plunkett, Sarah Ward, and Mark Godfrey, I selected a text titled “The books of nature and of scripture,” which we felt might be appropriate for a librarian, and incorporated some musical characteristics of Laura’s favorite compositions.
London Sacred Harp singer Rebecca Over has authored a useful survey of several good books that might serve as further reading after The Sacred Harp itself and as useful introductions to Sacred Harp history.