Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Rocky Mountain Sacred Harp Convention

Placitas Presbyterian Church and Tijeras YMCA Campground, New Mexico

September 16-17, 2000

Saturday, September 16

The eleventh Rocky Mountain Sacred Harp Singing Convention was held at two locations. The Saturday session was held at Placitas Presbyterian Church, about twenty miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Sunday session was held at Pinon Canyon YMCA Camp in Tijeras, New Mexico, about twelve miles east of Albuquerque. John Schaffer called the convention to order at 9:30 a.m. leading song on page 34b. Daniel Davis led the morning prayer.

A business session was held with the following officers elected or appointed to serve: Chairman—David McPherson; Secretary—Kay Sirco; Treasurer—Juliette Cunico; Chaplain—Daniel Davis; Arranging Committee—Harlan Van Camp, Daniel Davis, Sally Gwylan, and Ed Stevens; Memorial Committee—Carol Selleck.

Leaders: Jeanne Schaffer 143, 369; Ed Stevens 384, 452; Sandy Klein 180, 268; Allan Stavely 112, 61; Donald Klein 540, 523; Mike Hinton 340, 288; Leighan Sewell 401; Rhonda Griswold 128, 159; Kay Sirco 312 (t? b?), 84; Mary Ann Daly 74 (t? b?), 324.


Harlan Van Camp called the class to order leading song on page 46. Leaders: Daniel Davis “Crownpoint” (his own composition), 423; Mary Wright 145b, 290; Sally Gwylan 332, 106; John Schaffer 291, 515b; Carla Smith 28b, 37b; Pat Temple 85, 475; Carol Selleck 410 (t? b?), 553; Deborah Johnson 504, 147t; Jerry Schreiber 66, 473; Juliette Cunico 214, 47b; Janet Morgan 341, 400; David McPherson 300, 133; Hugh McGraw 413.


David McPherson called the afternoon session to order leading song on page 59. Leaders: Leon Ballinger 490, 269; Mike Hinton 146; Jeanne Schaffer 198; Allan Stavely 58; Jerry Schreiber 198; Donald Klein 556; Ed Stevens 209; Janet Morgan 68b; Sandy Klein 117; Hugh McGraw 347; Mary Ann Daly 383; Mary Wright 270; Daniel Davis “Animas” (his own composition); Harlan Van Camp 503.


Announcements were made. Leaders: Kay Sirco 178; Rhonda Griswold 155; Lissa Callirhoe 442; David McPherson 569 (t? b?); John Schaffer 313b; Carla Smith 352; Pat Temple 168; Carol Selleck 39b; Deborah Johnson 86; Juliette Cunico 419; Leon Ballinger 187; Mike Hinton 373; Jeanne Schaffer 339; Lissa Callirhoe 362; Allan Stavely 148; Jerry Schreiber 480; Donald Klein 192; Ed Stevens 430; Sandy Klein 481; Mary Ann Daly 294; Mary Wright 42; Daniel Davis 344; Harlan Van Camp 547; Kay Sirco 68t.

David McPherson led song on page 267 as the closing song. Leon Ballinger dismissed the class with prayer.

Sunday, September 17

David McPherson called the Sunday session to order leading song on page 72b. Daniel Davis and Deborah Johnson led the morning prayer.

Leaders: John Schaffer 229, 441; Sally Gwylan 335, 385b; Carla Smith 213t, 202; Leon Ballinger 212, 299; Jerry Schreiber 274t, 338; Carol Selleck 89, 319; Hugh McGraw 213b, 310; Jeanne Schaffer 87, 107; Janet Morgan 35, 82t; Pat Temple 64, 566; Deborah Johnson 312b, 277; Mary Wright 71, 510.


Daniel Davis brought the class to order leading song on page 66.

Carol Selleck, Janet Morgan, Carla Smith, and Jerry Schreiber conducted the memorial lesson.

Carol Selleck gave a tribute to Sacred Harp members who have gone on to “The Great Convention in the Sky.” We miss our friends, their voices, and the contributions they made towards putting on a good singing; but most of all we miss their presence in our midst for they came with pure hearts, sweet smiles, and friendly words. We remember them for their zeal and love of the music, but we rejoice in the knowledge that they are now singing with that larger gathering of singers. Among their survivors are we, their family of singers, who shall carry forth their songs. May we each be blessed to follow their examples of love.

There are others who we wish to remember today. They are unable to be with us because of illness, age, or infirmity. Their longing to be here saddens us, for we want them here, so we shall hold their names up in our thoughts and include them on our list. All these people who we have named are the links that, one by one, voice by voice, link by link, form a long chain of melodies stretching back to our first Sacred Harp singing. They, along with the hundreds of others who have been memorialized at all the conventions over the years, are how we got from that very first singing to today’s Rocky Mountain Convention here in Tijeras, New Mexico.

Our conventions are dual in nature, consisting of the “back then” and the “here and now.” It is a bridge made of lyrics, harmony, rhythm, and union of voices, and we are the tribe of singers who travel over the bridge. We are non-denominational, a tribe that collectively seeks the fruits of the spirit by gathering all over the country several times a year and singing our hearts out.

Being counted among a group of singers is a wonderful experience. I found the first group of singers in the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of Israel appointed to the service of the tabernacle of the Lord. The Levites had the respect of all the other tribes, for they were “more upright in heart” (II Chronicles 29 (t? b?):34). I Chronicles 9:33 establishes their authority: “And these are the singers.” This Levitical line was “commanded to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David” (II Chronicles 29 (t? b?): 30 (t? b?)). We, too, strive to be more upright in heart, and with this as our example, I add them to our memorial list 2000.

Another line of singers for us to include is the “Yankee Tunesmiths” and the “Southern Singing Masters.” They exploded onto the music world a few hundred years back with their people’s music for the common folk, and they, too, were as dedicated as Levi’s tribe to “sing praises unto the Lord.” They gave us our inheritance of fuging tunes and folk hymns, textual sentimentality and anthems, gospel lyrics, and odes. In the Lloyd’s Hymnal, selection number 206 profiles these singers with the words: “however employed their joy was the same; they never were cloyed in hymning the Lamb; their sole recreation to sing of His praise, and publish salvation by Jesus’ grace. Men, in their own eyes were children again, and children were wise and solid as men; the women were fearful of nothing but sin; their hearts were all cheerful, their consciences clean.” I think this describes my grandparents, and maybe it describes yours. My grandmother, Exer Anna Sheppard Hand, like her husband and her parents, were Sacred Harpers. Eighty years ago, my father, Elder Gerald Hand, then age six, went to his first Sacred Harp singing at the County Courthouse in Franklin County, Tennessee. He saw more people than he had ever seen, and in his eyes, the horses and buggies, mule teams, and wagons outnumbered the people. My first Sacred Harp recollection was about fifty years ago at a big camp meeting of the West Texas Association of the Primitive Baptist Church. A huge tent, called “the tabernacle,” was maintained for this annual meeting, but that’s not where I heard the music, since Sacred Harp is not used in our worship service. The food tents had long lines three times a day, and the people stood in line singing Sacred Harp. Listening to the music flow up and down the line fed the soul. So many links, so many happy faces, that I just wanted to include them in our Memorial 2000. And fast forwarding to the “here and now”; yesterday, a brand new link attended her first Sacred Harp singing, my great niece, twelve year old Leighanna Sewell, with her attendance here, has become my family’s first sixth generation singer.

Our singing endures and Curtis Owen knows why. For you who have yet to meet Curtis Owen, he is an influential eighty years old singer over at McMahon, Texas. When he was being interviewed by the Texas Monthly Magazine regarding their 100th anniversary singing last spring, and was asked, “why has the singing endured for a hundred years?” Curtis replied, “Because we like it.”

The bridge got weak awhile back and looked like it was on its last note. However, it got shored up by a stubborn, dedicated bunch of people like Curtis Owen. Leon Ballinger is another. He’s gone to more singings, pitched more songs, and chaired more conventions in a year than most of us attended in a lifetime. Then there’s Hugh McGraw. He saw it dying out and started stoking the fire. He encouraged, recruited, promoted, wrote songs, published books, appeared on national television, and fanned life into that fire, and Sacred Harp is now experiencing a great comeback. The small circle of hollow squares got bigger and bigger as more newcomers discovered and embraced the sound, effused it with energy and enthusiasm, and stepped forward to help carry the torch. Carla Smith is a leader of the new line of Sacred Harp singers and comes to our memorial lesson with a different perspective, but with the same intent. Following Carla’s memorial lesson, my sister, Janet Morgan, will close with number 55, “Sister’s Farewell”, which for today we shall think of as “A Singer’s Farewell.” All four parts will be led with Janet on the lead, Carla on the treble, Jerry Schreiber on the bass, and myself on the alto.

When you add up the list of Shut-ins, Deceased, Levites, Sacred Harp Founders, Franklin County Tennessee Singers, and the Singing Food Lines, today we have memorialized 2000 singers for our “Memorial 2000”. Let our memories not dwell on the sadness of our friends leaving us, but let us cherish the good moments we had with them when they were here.

The names of deceased remembered were: Marie Aldridge, Virgil Phillips, and Ruby Phillips—Alabama; Marge Butler (mother of Rhonda Griswold)—Oregon; Karen House—New York; Tina Hand—New Mexico.

Those sick and shut-in remembered were: John Hocutt, Jap Walton, and Joyce Walton—Alabama; Vykki Mende-Gray—California; Fred Cunico and Lissa Callirhoe—New Mexico.

The memorial lesson was closed with a very moving prayer offered by Hugh McGraw.


David McPherson brought the afternoon session to order leading song on page 38 (t? b?). Leaders: Kathleen Sensenig 178; Jerry Schreiber 131t; Allan Stavely 296; John Schaffer 440; Ed Stevens 102; Mary Wright 103; Kay Sirco 84; Pat Temple 183; Juliette Cunico 272; Jeanne Schaffer 127; Harlan Van Camp 369; Carla Smith 323t; Carol Selleck 175.

A business session was held to hear committee reports.


Daniel Davis brought the class to order leading song on page 49b. Leaders: Sally Gwylan 448b; Mary Ann Daly 378b; Allan Stavely 479; Jerry Schreiber 474; David McPherson 203; Kathleen Sensenig 122; Mary Wright 145b; Ed Stevens 535; Pat Temple 171; Carol Selleck 379; Juliette Cunico 300; Carla Smith 317b; Kay Sirco 143; Allan Stavely 106; Mary Ann Daly 428; Harlan Van Camp 492.

David McPherson led song on page 62 as the closing song, and the class was dismissed with prayer.

Chairman—David McPherson; Secretary—Kay Sirco.