Sacred Harp singing now annual event

Published 9:59 pm Monday, March 1, 2010

Either way one looks at it, Sacred Harp singing is “a joyful noise.”

Bill Hogan describes it as “joyful.”

Scott Flowers says it’s “noise.”

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Put ’em together and Sacred Harp singing is a “joyful noise.”

More than 50 people gathered at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama on Saturday for what, “given its success” will be an annual event.

“The Sacred Harp Singing was a great success. It attracted singers from all across the Wiregrass and north to Montgomery,” said Jerry Peak, museum director. “We had several people from Troy who participated. Some participated as singers. Some came to learn and some came just to listen.”

Bill Hogan of metro-Montgomery is a member of a Sacred Harp group that tries to find a place to sing almost every weekend.

“I love the music,” he said. “I love the spirit of the music. It encourages me, and it encourages my heart. Each of the four parts has its own melody and we sing out on our melody. Sacred Harp music has a different flavor. It’s a wall of sound and you feel the music.”

Like Hogan, Mary Howard of Troy loves Sacred Harp singing. However, unlike Hogan, she didn’t go to the center of the square Saturday to lead her favorite song. Rather, sat near the back and sang just like she did when she was a little girl.

“I’ve always loved Sacred Harp singing,” Howard said. “I learned to sing Sacred Harp before I learned my ABCs.”

Howard said the beauty of Sacred Harp to her is the “minor music.”

“I love minor sounds,” she said. “It’s the sound of yesterday. The sounds that I grew up with and there’s no other sound like it.”

And, it’s a sound that Scott Flowers said he just couldn’t understand or vocalize.

He and his wife Diane were first time shape note singers, and he said he felt like “a fish out of water.”

“That was my first exposure and Sacred Harp is hard to sing and I felt so dumb,” Flowers said laughing. “I’m not a shape note virgin. I’ve tried it.”

Diane Flowers, however, said she “kind of” enjoyed it.

“I sat and tried to sing. It is hard, but I stumbled my way along the fasola,” she said. “I enjoyed the challenge and I’ll go back.”

And, way in the back was Agnes Johnson. She settled in with her smocking in her lap and never intended to sing a note.

“I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I love Sacred Harp singing,” she said. “I was there to listen, and I really enjoyed it. Many years ago, my uncle Frank Hataway introduced me to Sacred Harp singing and, when they had singings at Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church, I would go and sit and listen. It’s a different kind of music but it inspires me and I love to listen.”