I'm kind of homesick for a country to which I've never been before.
April 8, 2008 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Frank Newsome leads the congregation at the Little David Church in Hayside, Va. Old Regular Baptists, they sing the way people sang when they first came to the American colonies: without instruments or notation, and following their leader line by line. It's called lined-out hymnody, and people outside the southern Appalachian Mountains rarely hear it. One of the songs Newsome sings at services is a hymn about longing for heaven, called "Beulah Land."
posted by The Jesse Helms (30 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Yay, yay, yay, holy musical riches today.
posted by Miko at 2:07 PM on April 8, 2008

Another lovely example of lined out hymnody, the ancestral one perhaps, is seen in this fine post.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lining-out is pretty widespread (even without the influences we know, I think it would have co-evolved as a solution to the problem of a partially literate society. A couple people could read the text, but not everyone). It happens in the shape-note/Sacred Harp tradition as well.
posted by Miko at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2008

miko beat me to it; I've only ever experienced shape-note singing as lined-out, although that's been in community events rather than in a practical worship context.
posted by catlet at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2008

Pete Seeger does it with a group of school children in the recent PBS special about his life, and Johnny Cash does it in some of his duets with Bob Dylan. Though I suppose both of them could've learned it from the same source, I, too, suspect co-evolution.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2008

For those who can't wait, there's a view of Beulahland here -- scroll to the last image on the page. It's halfway along the Golden Eagle trail in northeast PA.
posted by BlueMetal at 2:38 PM on April 8, 2008

One of 22 children, none of whom are twins

Sweet Jesus.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:44 PM on April 8, 2008

Wow, that just made me really homesick.
posted by trbrts at 2:50 PM on April 8, 2008

OMG...you just took me back to childhood. I grew up in the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee, where my grandfather led a Primitive Baptist congregation. Pictures of our community and church (pic labeled Headricks Chapel) can be found here.

Most Primitive Baptists do not use any musical accompaniment and sing all hymns using this 'lined-out hymnody'. Just hearing that song "Beulah Land" really brought me back to all those long sundays and so many of my relatives, including my grandfather, who have passed away.
posted by UseyurBrain at 2:57 PM on April 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Now I'm wierded out because I just read the title of this post and saw that it's about homesickness too. I really am from this area though.
posted by trbrts at 2:58 PM on April 8, 2008

It happens in the shape-note/Sacred Harp tradition as well.

Are you talking about singing the notes? Or is there a tradition in Sacred Harp of calling out the words before each line?
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:06 PM on April 8, 2008

There is a tradition of a leader singing the line briefly before the congregation sings the line, giving them the words.
posted by Miko at 3:11 PM on April 8, 2008

Oh: I should add that a lot of times, if you have only a compilation of shape-note songs, you won't hear the lining-out. Which may be why people think it isn't part of shape-note.

What often happens is that the leader lines out the song, the congregation sings, and they do the whole thing once through. Then they repeat it now that they know it - and one hearing is considered sufficient to know it (for most people it's not their first time hearing the song, so it's more of a reminder). People doing fieldwork collected hours of tape of this, but when samplers and comps are put together, they rarely seem to include tracks featuring the lining out. But it's readily found. If I were at home I'd have some specific recordings to suggest but I am not in front of my music library.
posted by Miko at 3:14 PM on April 8, 2008

Lovely stuff. Just found this gem searching for similar on YouTube: Difference between Call/Response and Lining Out
posted by Abiezer at 3:25 PM on April 8, 2008

Thanks for sharing, Miko. The singings I've been to — very few, I should say — there hasn't been any lining-out. It's cool to know it's a part of the tradition.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:28 PM on April 8, 2008

Praise the Lord but this is good stuff.
posted by nola at 3:38 PM on April 8, 2008

Bless Hope Services, a weblog of the Blessed Hope Old Regular Baptist church in Liberty, Kentucky posts singing and sermons practically every week.
posted by wfitzgerald at 4:08 PM on April 8, 2008

including Beulah Land (mp3) lined out and the sound of babies in the background.
posted by wfitzgerald at 4:10 PM on April 8, 2008

Thanks for this - some beautiful examples of the best the human voice has to offer.
posted by Megami at 7:21 PM on April 8, 2008

"Beulah Land" is one of the most popular requests at our funeral home. Right up there with "Go Rest High on that Mountain" and (shudder) "Freebird."
posted by ColdChef at 8:58 PM on April 8, 2008

Please tell me you're joking about Free Bird.
posted by Miko at 9:09 PM on April 8, 2008

So amazing! I met this guy summer of 2006, and his wife (who I remember had the best beehive hairdo I've ever seen) on the fourth of July (grand marshal of the parade was Ralph Stanley) in Clintwood, Virginia (I was lucky enough to be doing an internship at an archive not far from there in KY). My boss told me about seeing this guy perform, how moving it was. So excited to hear the recording! Thank you thank you thank you for the post!
posted by ethel at 10:09 PM on April 8, 2008

Excellent post, The Jesse Helms - fabulous day on Mefi today!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:17 PM on April 8, 2008

Pete Seeger does a lot of lining out in his singing. It's a good choice for songs that have a random number of verses that can be sung in no particular order. Obviously it's not exactly the same thing, as often he'll just call out the first line of a verse, but it's in the same spirit.

Seeger also does what is a pretty common folk thing, which is to coach an audience step-by-step through a verse and chorus, then start the singing.
posted by dhartung at 1:21 AM on April 9, 2008

dhartung, I found a video of Peter Yarrow doing just that with "This Land Is Your Land" (go to about 18:00).
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:09 AM on April 9, 2008

Do they mean "Haysi", right across the border from WVA? I don't know of a place called "Hayside" in Virginia.
posted by dubold at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2008

Must be, dubold. I Googled around, and it looks like Haysi is referred to as Hayside in quite a few places, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2008

posted by MrMoonPie at 12:48 PM on April 9, 2008

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