Sunday, September 10, 2006

Awake My Soul

"Sacred Harp singing just might be the most beautiful music you've never heard," according to Valerie Fraser Luesse, author of Together in Harmony in Southern Living magazine. Click blue link to read and hear.

Amity mentioned and linked the Sacred Harp documentary "Awake My Soul" in the comments section of this last blog. That made me think of blogging about it, since everyone may not be following all the comments. We had the privilege of seeing "Awake My Soul" at the East Texas Sacred Harp Convention in August. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will leave you informed.

According to the documentary's website, "
'Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp' is the first feature documentary about Sacred Harp singing, a haunting form of a cappella shape note hymn singing with deep roots in the American south. Shape note singing has survived over 200 years tucked away from notice in the rural deep south, where in old country churches, singers break open 'The Sacred Harp', a 160 year old shape note hymnal which has preserved these fiercely beautiful songs which are some of the oldest in America. The film offers a glimpse into the lives of this 'Lost Tonal Tribe' whose history is a story of both rebellion and tradition. The filmmakers, Matt and Erica Hinton spent 7 years documenting this yet largely unknown art form."

Producer Matt Hinton writes, "I discovered Sacred Harp singing in 1991. At a concert in Atlanta, I heard about an upcoming 'shaped note' singing that was being held about in North Georgia. As I approached the Primitive Baptist Church where the singing was held, I could already hear voices. It was the sound, not of a choir, but of people singing. People with flaws and without perfect pitch, but meaning every word of it: 'Serve with a single heart and eye, and to Thy glory live or die.' I immediately felt transported. What can I call this experience? Overwhelmed. There is a sense in which this moment informed the entire making of 'Awake, My Soul'. It became my desire for others to experience this moment as well. Ever since, I have tried to convince my friends that if they will only drive 45 minutes, their minds will be blown. Yet, 45 minutes is a tall order evidently. I decided if they will not come to a singing, I must bring the singing to them."

Check out the site for information on the movie, photo gallery, links, a trailer and even a 1930s picture of a little Texas girl holding a book almost as big as she is!

1. Awake, my soul, in joyful lays,
And sing thy great Redeemer's praise
He justly claims a song from me,
His loving-kindness, O how free!

2. He saw me ruined in the fall,
Yet loved me notwithstanding all;
He saved me from my lost estate,
His loving-kindness, O how great!

3. Though num'rous hosts of mighty foes,
Though earth and hell my way oppose
He safely leads my soul along,
His loving-kindness, O how strong!

4. When troubles, like a gloomy cloud,
Have gathered thick and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His loving-kindness, O how good!

5. Often I feel my sinful heart
Prone from my Jesus to depart,
But though I have Him oft forgot,
His loving-kindness changes not.

6. Soon shall I pass the gloomy vale,
Soon all my mortal pow'rs must fail;
Oh! May my last expiring breath
His loving-kindness sing in death.

7. Then let me mount and soar away
To the bright world of endless day,
And sing with rapture and surprise
His loving-kindness in the skies.

-- Samuel Medley, 1782

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