AKA Wiregrass Singers

Sacred Harp Group Ozark, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


The Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers are living exponents of a very old devotional lineage, and represent a tradition that calls up rural 19th century African American camp meetings. This is one of at least two Sacred Harp collections recorded by the group in 1993, at a time when most of the members were quite elderly and several were using aluminum walkers to get around. Shape-note singing is fundamentally free of strictures usually associated with conventional church music, and the often-emotionally charged improvisational nature of the lead vocal brings on a collective intensity that can be quite moving. The Sacred Harp is the name of a shape-note religious songbook first published in mid-19th century Georgia using a simplified set of symbols so that virtually anyone could participate. Of three major revised and augmented editions, the Colored Sacred Harp (collected and published by songwriter Judge Jackson in Ozark, AL in 1934) is distinct from the rest as its 77 songs were almost entirely composed by African Americans from the Florida panhandle and southeastern Alabama. Subsequently, the Colored Sacred Harp was officially adopted by the Alabama and Florida Union State Convention and the Dale County Colored Musical Institute as a common collection of devotional songs. With support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, a hardbound edition appeared in 1973.

wiregrass sacred harp singers promo photo

The group that gathers on a regular basis to sing from the leaves of this collection have developed their own methodology using patterns of ritual that predate the entire shape-note tradition. Generally the singers meet, converse and sing, share a meal, and afterwards commence praying and singing in earnest. They form a square with the altos facing the tenors and the trebles facing the basses; for some unspecified reason, the leader, who stands in the middle and paces the rhythm of the song within the square, takes care never to turn his or her back on the tenors. Everyone who wants or feels the need to lead is given that opportunity. One holds the book in the left hand while gesturing with the right. The sounds of this congregation are profoundly beautiful and include prayers, incantations, meditations, speeches, storytelling, wide-open harmonizing, ecstatic cries, and heartfelt praise for the creator. The Wiregrass Sacred Heart Singers belong in a special category with the McIntosh County Shouters and the Rastafari Elders.

Review of The Colored Sacred Harp by arwulf arwulf

Source: http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-colored-sacred-harp-mw0000624279

Photo source: http://www.arts.state.al.us/actc/compilation/pisgah.html


More info:

Allmusic discography: http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-colored-sacred-harp-mw0000624279/releases

WIREGRASS SACRED HARP SINGERS ERA 1980 "PISGAH" MUSICS OF ALABAMA: A COMPILATION http://www.arts.state.al.us/actc/compilation/pisgah.html

Video: Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers: Give Me Just A Little More Time (1983) http://youtu.be/1TVHuFOmf58


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