The village of Taylor, known for its combination of the traditional life with modern and original arts, hosted its twenty-ninth annual all-day Sacred Harp singing on Saturday, October 8 at the United Methodist Church. Taylor United Methodist Church, with its resonant wooden floor and beaded wood walls, is an ideal location to hear this thrilling harmony, which is not accompanied by harps or any other instruments.
A Sacred Harp singing is a non-denominational community musical event. Named for The Sacred Harp, a songbook first printed in 1844, Sacred Harp singings are often associated with church homecomings and memorials. In Lafayette County, Sacred Harp singing dates to the 1870s, when several area churches instituted annual singings that were among the best-attended events in their communities. In many places, traditional singings have been replaced by gospel quartet concerts, but Sacred Harp singings still preserve the music, style and customs of the days before the War Between the States, in which everyone sings and everyone is invited to lead his or her favorite selections. The songbook includes pieces by the first American composers along with many southern folk hymns and camp-meeting songs. Sacred Harp singing is featured in the documentary film Awake, My Soul, as well as in the Miramax film Cold Mountain.
Today Sacred Harp singing is experiencing a massive revival: singings and conventions have sprung up all across the United States, as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Larger singings attract hundreds of singers and listeners, who learn about the music from the Internet or by word of mouth: Warren Steel maintains a Sacred Harp home page at Ole Miss.
The twenty-ninth annual Sacred Harp singing at Taylor United Methodist Church (formerly held at Pilgrim's Rest Primitive Baptist Church) was called to order by Warren Steel leading song on page 72b and 72t. Matt Bell led the morning prayer. Leaders: Matt Bell 57, 495; John Van Horn 61, 111t; Anne Steel 110, 335; Arlon Gardner 481, 65; Jeff Corbett 326, 230; Jan Murray 31b, 457; Bob Lence 40, 155; Sheree Lence 59, 128.
Warren Steel reassembled the class leading 142. Other leaders: Jamira Jackson 45t, 114; Regina Derstine 229; Hamilton Lence 28t, 479; Hannah Gadd 49t, 27; Henry McGuire 29b, 475; Thomas Ardrey 162, 433; A memorial lesson was held. Warren Steel led 274t and Matt Bell led 318 in memory of the deceased: Kenneth Stead, Al and Becky Moreton, Curtis Bryant, Charles Pulliam and Helen Beauchamp. The sick and shut-in were also remembered, including Tera Hardwick, Roy Davis and Jack Barbera. Matt Bell offered the memorial prayer.
Warren Steel called the class together leading song on page 213t and 141. Leaders: Matt Bell 214, 67; John Van Horn 297, 212; Anne Steel 217, 348b; Arlon Gardner 448t, 455; Jeff Corbett and Scotty Polston 503, 146; Jan Murray and Warren Steel 282, "Hurricane Creek," 285t; Bob Lence 163t, 236; Regina Derstine 107. 410t; Matt Bell 377; Scotty Polston 63; Henry McGuire 196, 436; Randy Weeks 354b; Regina Derstine (for T.K. Funderburk) 82t. Following announcements of future singings Will McGuire led song on page 81t. Warren Steel then led the closing song on page 235 and the class was dismissed with prayer by John Van Horn.
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