Sacred Harp Singing
Documents and Audio

Interview Audio

Sacred Harp singing

Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church Sacred Harp Sing

(Series S 1576, Item C81-22)

The photographs, documents, and audio recordings in this unit are primarily drawn from The Sacred Harp Sing, a slide and tape show created by the Florida Folklife Program. It includes interviews with members of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church and songs collected by Peggy Bulger on October 29, 1978 in Old Chicora, Polk County, Florida. At the time of the interview, Bulger was chief administrator for the Florida Folklife Program. Later, she became Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The tape begins with an introduction to the history of scared harp singing.

In 1884 Benjamin Franklin White, a singing school teacher living in Harris County, Georgia published The Sacred Harp. This book of "Old Baptist" religious folk song was to become the most popular and longest lasting of the American shaped-note songsters.

The Sacred Harp is written in the ancient "fa so la" musical system. This scale, used in Old English music and carried to America by British settlers, has only four notes… FA, SO, LA, MI.

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Interview Audio

Field recordings at Gainesville, Panama City, and Jacksonville (1939-1940 recording expedition: Alton Morris)

(Series S 1576, Item T86-226)

This Sacred Harp program was recorded by Alton Morris on April 19, 1949 in Gainesville. The singers are under the direction of G. P. Jackson who explains the history of the Sacred Harp and uses the different vocal sections of the choir to demonstrate the sacred harp singing method.

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