From every stormy wind that blows
December 6, 2008 4:03 AM   Subscribe

I don't suppose anyone could call John Etheridge famous. He was the president of the Sacred Harp Book Company, the publisher of the Cooper Revision of the Sacred Harp. He was a mainstay of the the Florida State Convention, and the arranger of the popular tune Mercy Seat. And there is an interview with him (and the other board members of the company) as part of the Alabama Arts Radio Series. Still, I don't suppose many know his name. Yet he was "a great man and a great singer," and I suspect that many on Metafilter would be glad to have and to make as much music as John did in his life. John Etheridge died on December 5, 2008.
posted by wfitzgerald (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The whole Sacred Harp thing is very interesting - thanks!
posted by malpractice at 4:11 AM on December 6, 2008

Great loss! I love shape note singing, and strongly recommend anyone here on Metafilter to get into it if you have any kind of love for Appalachian/early country/old-time music.

Such gorgeous, haunting music. Thanks for this post.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:52 AM on December 6, 2008

This is the first I've heard of Sacred Harp and shape note singing. I've done choral singing and I might give this a try. Over-reliance on sight-reading can detract from a natural feel for the music. Shape note music is simplified: 4 notes (fa-so-la-mi) as opposed to 7 (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti). The song is first sung using only the notes before adding the lyrics. This reminds me of how Maria taught the von Trapp children to sing in "The Sound of Music."
posted by kindalike at 8:20 AM on December 6, 2008

Also, hyper-focus on performance detracts from joy while participation by all leads to joy. I experienced this once at the Fireman's Ball in Mendocino CA where everyone danced (and it was a crowded auditorium).
posted by kindalike at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2008

posted by redsparkler at 10:39 AM on December 6, 2008

Start your investigation of Sacred Harp with the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and their greatest hit, "Rocky Road". This is a nice, tight, orderly and powerful Sacred Heart recording. (Some of them can be a little ragged, and you might ask yourself, 'what's the big deal?". The song was co-written by Paine Denson, whose father did the Denson revision, if I'm not mistaken.
posted by Faze at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2008

Well, the best thing to do--if you want to hear what it's all about--is to attend a local Sacred Harp singing. Because it's not done for performance (very often, anyway), it's better to sing than to just listen. You can find local singing listings at Check out or a local singing or an annual singing--they are both good in their ways.
posted by wfitzgerald at 2:04 PM on December 6, 2008

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