The Sacred Harp “Minutes Book”: Centering Tradition for an Expanding Community in the Digital Age
- American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism
- The Ohio State University Press
- Volume 30, Number 1, 2020
- pp. 60-80
- Additional Information
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Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings, an annual publication produced by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, compiles detailed proceedings of Sacred Harp singing conventions, events originating in the nineteenth century that continue to gather participants to sing from The Sacred Harp, a shape-note tunebook. Although the volume consists primarily of lists of participants’ song choices at singing conventions, a careful reading of its textual and material signifiers demonstrates its power as a self-representation of the community that it supports. Community members employ the publication— along with an accompanying app for mobile devices—to build community identity and assert specific practices as Sacred Harp’s central “traditions.” As Sacred Harp singing has expanded dramatically in its geography and attracted an ideologically diverse participant base, the annual publication has become an important voice in defining traditional practice for new singers while obscuring the music culture’s problematic relationship to the cultural contexts attending its emergence in the antebellum South and instead representing Sacred Harp as a contemporary practice open to new participants of all backgrounds.