I was born in Maryland and spent my first thirty years living there, first in the Appalachian Mountains, then on the Eastern Shore, and later in suburban Washington. After a year in South Carolina, I moved to Georgia in 1977, met and married a wonderful woman and soon had three children. In 2007, I retired from the National Park Service and a career dedicated to preserving and interpreting resources and themes in the cultural and natural history of the United States. I spent over eleven years - a third of that career - living and working in the historic city of Savannah, Georgia, and on the moss-draped sea islands nearby. Today, my wife and I enjoy living in the rolling hills and woods of the Appalachian Piedmont east of Atlanta.
This past weekend, there was a Sacred Harp concert in a small church in Oxford, Georgia, a ten mile drive east of OTR's woods. Sacred Harp has nothing to do with a frame with strings. The only "instruments" are human voices singing four part harmony. Sacred Harp, a form of shape note singing, originated in 1844 with the publication of a songbook of the same name by Benjamin Franklin Wright (Harris County, Georgia) and Elisha J. King (Talbot County, Georgia). Their work enabled untrained voices to worship with polyphonic, harmonious song. After a century and a half, the unusual cadence and harmony of the Sacred Harp survived only in a few places, mostly in the South and Midwest. Today it enjoys a resurgence - thanks in part to the Internet - and enables listeners to hear the past singing in the present. In the following videos, readers can hear Sacred Harp from Hoboken, Georgia.
And here is an example of how Sacred Harp has entered the world of entertainment: