Huntsville Sacred Harp Newsletter

Number 23, May 1995

David Ivey, Editor (
16021 Deaton Drive, Huntsville AL 35803
(205) 881-5291

Singing Review

By Keith Willard, Minneapolis, Minnesota

On May 7th, 1994 we had the delightful opportunity to sing on the grounds of the Burritt Museum with the Huntsville, Alabama folks. The singing was held in a restored old simple church building (a wooden box 33' by 28' by 12', we always measure our singing spaces with a hardware store sonic tape measure a la Steven Sabol) and was a very good singing space. There were about 100 people in attendance with about the typical ratio of singers to non-singers.

However, this singing is an example of a new breed of singing (like perhaps the courthouse singing near Atlanta) that is developing in the south. It is an urban singing, attracting "new south" people who have never sung before, as well as a solid cadre of traditional singers from the surrounding areas. In addition to completely new singers there were also many newer southern singers who have been recruited just over the last few years by the efforts of the traditional Huntsville area singers.

The singing brought together many members of three prominent Sacred Harp families of Alabama that otherwise are infrequently found together in any numbers: the Ballingers, the Creels, and the Woottens. Since the Woottens like to sing high and slow and the Ballingers like to sing low and fast, you can imagine the pitching challenges! For those who love their alto served piping hot, imagine a room with Syble Adams, Pam Wilkerson, Marie Aldridge, and Lucy Heidorn in the same section.

Speaking of publicity, David Ivey has corraled some of the best print publicity that I have seen for a Sacred Harp singing from the local press.

All in all it was a great experience, including the warm hospitality of the Huntsville singers. For those looking for a late spring singing, it is highly recommended.

From A Sacred Harp email posting (Reprinted by permission)

1995 11th Annual Huntsville All Day Singing

Saturday, May 13th
9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Burritt Museum


I am seeking information about J.T. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers. During the late 1920s this group made what I believe to be the first 78 RPM recordings from the Sacred Harp. These recordings were released by Gennett Records, a company then located in Richmond, Indiana. The group was from Alabama and two addresses associated with it in paperwork from 70 years ago are Leeds and Moody, AL. Does anyone have information about these folks? There must be children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. Can anyone help me locate them? There were only a few singers and on some recordings they seem to have used a little suitcase reed organ. So they did it wrong, but it turned out right -- the recordings are beautiful even with all the scratches and primitive recording methods of grandpa's day. I'm interested in information and photos and anything else that might help make this group of fine singers better known. They are important in shape-note history and it would be good to document their lives and times in an essay article or with a CD re-issue of their old recordings -- or perhaps both! This is a labor of love with a 20 year history and no one will make any money. But dabbling in shape note history is no more expensive that owning a boat or going to Alabama games and I feel it may be more satisfying in the long run. So write to me if you can help! Many thanks. Joe Wilson, National Council for the Traditional Arts, 1320 Fenwich Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
P.S. - Yes, of course, I'll let all of you know what comes of this.

Printed by Request of Alabama State Council on the Arts

1995 United Sacred Harp Convention Set

The 1995 United Sacred Harp Singing Convention (held in Huntsville in 1989) will be held at Liberty Church in Henagar, Alabama (70 miles east of Huntsville on Sand Mountain in Dekalb County) on September 9th and 10th. For more information, contact David Ivey.

Remaining 1995 Huntsville Singing Schedule

[Other special events may be added.]

Sacred Harp Books, Tapes Available

The Sacred Harp, 1991 Edition books are available again. The price is a very reasonable $10. Also, the Bound for Canaan cassette tape is available for $9. This field recording of a traditional singing at Antioch Church on Sand Mountain was selected as one of the top thirty folk recordings of 1991 by the Library of Congress.

[ Contents | Sacred Harp Singing | Warren Steel | Music Dept. | UM Home ]