Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Midwest Convention

Chicago, Illinois

May 24-25, 2003

Saturday, May 24

The eighteenth annual Midwest Sacred Harp Singing Convention was held at Ida Noyes Hall on the University of Chicago campus, Chicago, Illinois on the fourth Sunday and Saturday before in May.

Co-Chairs Cathryn Baker and Doug Stapleton opened the Saturday morning session at 9:30 a.m. by welcoming singers and then led 171. Jim Swanson offered the opening prayer.

Leaders: Bruce Holmes 146; Randy Neufeld 32t; Judy Hauff 48t; Richard DeLong 112 (for Violet Thomason); Megan Jennings 208; Ted Mercer 302; Karen Freund 82t; James Page 411; Lisa Grayson 288 (in memory of Ruth Brown); Jerry Enright 100; Kathy Williams 222; Jim Helke 548.

Co-Chairs Cathryn Baker and Doug Stapleton led 99 and then called for a business session. The following officers were elected or appointed to serve: Co-Chairs—Karen Freund and Jerry Enright; Vice Chairs—Lisa Grayson and Ted Mercer; Secretaries—Cathryn Baker and Doug Stapleton; Assistant Secretary—Becky Allen-Powell; Arranging Committee—Martha Beverly, James Swanson, and Henry Schuman; Chaplains—James Swanson, Herb Schroeder, and Louis Hughes, Sr.; Memorial Committee—Mike Hinton, Kathy Williams, Lynne deBenedette, and Richard DeLong; Finance Committee—Randy Neufeld; Resolutions Committee—Louis Hughes, Jr.

Leaders: Karen Freund and Jerry Enright 354 (t? b?); Jerry Creason 47b; Helen Brown 142; Al Frank 362; Laura Clawson 216; Mike Hinton 543; Marcia Johnson 440; Louis Hughes, Sr. 384 (in memory of Ruth Brown); Melanie Hauff 485; Tony Singleton 496; Lynne deBenedette 182; Jeremy York 163b; Ann Beasley Ballard 57.


Suzanne Flandreau brought the class back with 87. Leaders: Steve Warner 86; Jeanette Lowry 475; Marlin Beasley 61; Kelly Brest van Kempen 335; Gary Gronau 122 (in memory of Ruth Brown); Debbie Barford 192; Jeff Gauthier 368; Steve Fletcher 277; Louis Hughes, Jr. 76b. Louis Hughes, Sr. led the class in prayer, and the class was dismissed for lunch.


The afternoon session began with Ted Mercer and Lisa Grayson leading 145t. Leaders: Kathy Williams and Louise Holland 36b (in memory of Ruth Brown whose funeral was occurring at this same time, 1:00 p.m.); class “Happy Birthday” to Gary Gronau; Becky Browne 436; Ted Johnson “Joyful Noise” (a new composition); Mary DeNys 484; Chris Noren 236; Reba Dell Windom 542; Chandler York, Kara York Hall, and Peter Lagrand 448b; Carolyn Deacy 56t; Scott DePoy 179 (for Cathy White); Annie Grieshop 84; Charles Wells 38b; Marty DeNys 299; David Barford 209; Wendy Wahn 269; Matt Wells 318; Morgan Bunch 383; Lois Hurt 551; David Rust 312t.


Bill Beverly and Martha Beverly called the class back to order leading 274t. Leaders: John Seaton 47t; Kathy Kaiser 212; Bill Hamblin 106; Ariel Weinberg, Natalia Cecire, Shaffiq Welji, and Jeff Gauthier 547 (in honor of the University of Chicago students who had sung with the group for the last 4 years); Wally Bloch 148; Kiri Miller 270; Brad Oglesby 39b; Marjorie Benwitz 218; Dave Ressler 448t; Joan Yeattman 143; Paul Figura 178; Beth Hoffman Reed 344; Steven Schmidgall 154.

Jerry Enright, Karen Freund, Lisa Grayson, and Ted Mercer led 46 as the closing song. Louis Hughes, Sr. offered the closing prayer, and the class was dismissed.

Sunday, May 25

The convention opened at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday with Co-Chairs Karen Freund and Jerry Enright leading 52t. Louis Hughes, Sr. offered the opening prayer.

Leaders: Anne Heider 350; Nick Pasqual 446; Becky Allen-Powell 480; Herb Schroeder 146; Grace Scrimgeaur 33b; Don Story 81t; Colette Miller 436; Don Keeton 290; Helen Brown 220; Samuel Sommers 112; Kathy Kaiser 29t; Francis Gurtz 479; Becky Browne 362; Scott DePoy 74b (for Jeannette DePoy); Kathy Williams 208; Louis Hughes, Sr. 492.


Megan Jennings brought the class back to order leading 36b. Leaders: Julie Vea 26; Mike Hinton 373; Chris Noren 189; Lynne deBenedette 442; Tony Singleton 31t; Mary DeNys 566; Jim Swanson 377; Steve Fletcher 70b; Jeff Gauthier (with his mother, Lee Ann Gauthier, and grandmother, Carol Parker) 340; Kris Richardson 107; David Rust 528; Reba Dell Windom 224; Marlin Beasley 454 (by request); Johanna Fabke 385t; James Page 216; Kim Bahmer 47t.


Karen Freund and Jerry Enright brought the class back leading 77t. Leaders: Kiri Miller 203; Louis Hughes, Jr. 99; Katie Kocha 313b.

The memorial lesson was conducted by Mike Hinton who reminded us that Sacred Harp singings are comprised of many people: singers, listeners, supporters, chauffeurs, and those who record the proceedings. We pause at conventions to remember and to celebrate those singers who have left our hollow square in the last year. Some sang Sacred Harp all their lives; people like Ruth Brown, our dear ‘bus lady,’ who was at this convention last year; B.E. Matthews, a true southern gentlemen, an Alabama native who moved to Texas and attended every Texas singing for many years; and Kenneth DeLong of Georgia who was born, raised, and sang his entire life in that area. Others sang Sacred Harp for fewer years, but still loved our special music. They were still Sacred Harp singers who loved and cared for each other and the music regardless of how long they had been singing.

Listen to these words from June 1997: “Sacred Harp is uniquely different. Singers come from all walks of life, represent all religious faiths, and different nationalities. Somewhere almost every week Sacred Harp singers meet to sing for the pure joy of it. It’s a joyful noise made for the comfort and satisfaction of the singer. This loyal, loving group meets to sing, weep, pray, laugh, eat, and talk together. We help, respect, defend, and love each other. And, faithfully, we pause to remember together those who in the past year have vacated a chair in their singing group. We remember their smiles, friendly handclasps, shared jokes, innocent pranks, and the times they sat beside us and sang their joyful noise.

We remember all these things with gladness—gladness because we knew them—gladness mixed with sadness, because in some way, almost every person in this room has been touched by the lives of some of the deceased. We can remember something special about many of them. As we read the names of the deceased, hold these people close to your heart—they are probably listening to us today as we remember them.”

These words were spoken at the 1997 National Sacred Harp Convention in Birmingham. I was a part of the Memorial Committee with Ruth Brown that year and for several other years. She loved the memorial lesson and knew the importance that we have always given to honoring and celebrating those who vacated a chair by our hollow square.

We’re sad for our loss of the companionship of those who’ve gone on. We’ll miss them for a long time, but our sadness is tempered by the knowledge that they’ve joined a heavenly singing that we can not begin to imagine. And yes, I believe that in the center of that Celestial Hollow Square, God will be right in the middle, elevated on His throne beating time to the tunes we love.

When those heavenly singers want to take a trip, Ruth Brown will organize a bus trip and welcome everybody aboard!

Kathy Williams continued the lesson stating that everyone probably has a story about Ruth Brown, some more irreverent than others, and led 122. She added further that while we are deeply saddened at our loss, the sadness is tempered by the knowledge that God is on a motorized throne so He can travel to any singing He likes. Also, on this Memorial Day weekend, we should make special remembrance of all those who have given their lives in defense of the United States.

Then the names of the deceased were read: Ruth Brown, Lavaughn Ballinger, Leola Smith, Flora Skinner—Alabama; Robert Warner, Robert Plunkett, and Sheila Horton—California; Matthew Ettinger—Florida; Everette Denney, Kenneth DeLong, and Vivian Rogers—Georgia; Bill Belhota, Helen Block, Richard Kimmel, Evan McCombs, and Stephanie Rubin—Illinois; Art Heffley and Evan Thompson—Indiana; David Lewin—Massachusetts; Virginia Bloom, and Christopher Dugan—Missouri; Dorothy Katz—New Jersey; Joseph Woodrow Weinberg—New York; Jennie Levey and Mary Louise Bates—Ohio; B.E. Matthews—Texas; Sister Pat Iggulden—Wisconsin; Tom Mattock—United Kingdom; Diahn Breunig—Vermont; Irma Glacy. Lynne deBenedette led 235 in memory of the deceased.

Lynne deBenedette spoke of the suddenness that occurs with so many of these departures from life. For her, as well as for many of the singers, it is the stories from the memorial lessons that stay in our minds. All singers are privileged to sing by, learn from, be raised by, and taught by those who are part of the square. We have received many gifts and lessons from these singers, but we don’t always remember or take the time to thank them while they are still alive. She wished she could thank some of those who are now gone and urged us not to fail in this effort. The joy and power of the music can be so overwhelming it should carry over in our efforts to take care of those who are part of the square. And although she does not consider herself a longtime singer, she is surprised at how many of those named, she knows.

The names of the sick and shut-ins were then read: Evelyn Harris, B.J. Harris, and G.L. Hinton—Alabama; Don Bowen, Violet Thomason, Cathy White, Donnie McGraw, I.V. McWhorter, Jap Walton, Joyce Walton, and Mozelle Sheppard—Georgia; Balthazar Lozano—Arizona; Tricia Ryan—California; Ann Elaine Cullor—Colorado; Patsy Cirkus—Florida; Sharon Brown, Suzanne Checia, LaQuita Keeton, Mr. Messbarger, Harry Sabusawa, Violet Stark, and Karl Weintraub—Illinois; Patrick Maxwell—Indiana; Madeleine Steel—Mississippi; Pauline Childers—Michigan; Sister Scholastica—South Carolina; Willaim Bahlarz (father of Susan Sanders) and Judy Parks—Tennessee; Kelly Beard and Ophelia Matthews—Texas; Cathryn Bearov (mother of Cathryn Baker)—Virginia; Val Dunagan, Carol Enseki, Camilla Hansen, and Bob Scorgie—Wisconsin; Karen Crook, Sue Gould, Simon Harratt, Gordon Matthews, Rosalind Oldham, Len Roles, Joan Stocks, and Keith Thomas—United Kingdom.

Richard DeLong urged those attending the convention to take even one person from this list and to write a note or send a card to that person. He spoke of the cards that he had received from singers in the past to console him during times of loss and how very much that had meant to him. Richard said that when he felt particularly despondent he could read the messages sent from those he both knew and did not know to lift his spirits with the knowledge that others were thinking of him and praying for him. Lynne deBenedette, Richard DeLong, and Mike Hinton led 381b. Sam Sommers closed the memorial lesson with prayer.

Herb Schroeder offered the blessing for the noon meal.


Doug Stapleton called the class back to order for the afternoon session leading 299. Leaders: Marjorie Ben Benwitz 327; John Seaton 48t; Carolyn Deacy 501; Judy Hauff 536; Steve Fletcher “New England” (a new composition); Cathryn Baker “Stafford” (with new words); Sue Kessell 365; Jim Laurie 63; Suzanne Flandreau and members of a visiting choir 540; Matt Wells, Cassie Lang, and Alex Olson 472; Emmie Barford 497; Dave Ressler 455; Laura Clawson 186; Marty DeNys 198; Judy Holst 282; Martha Beverly 430; Steven Schmidgall 473; Jeanette Lowry 142; Paul Figura 143; Lois Hurt 145 (t? b?); Richard DeLong 411.


Ted Mercer and Lisa Grayson brought the class back to order leading 278b. Leaders: Randy Neufeld 47t; Beth Hoffman Reed 456; Gary Gronau 426t; Bill Beverly 474; Ted Johnson 269; Anne Heider and Steve Warner 475; Melanie Hauff 215; Louise Holland and Kathy Williams 273; Marcia Johnson 434; Kris Richardson 217; Joan Yeatman 34b; David Barford 195.

A business meeting was held for the purpose of hearing reports from various committees.

The Finance Committee reported that expenses had been met and thanked all for helping to achieve this goal.

Co-Secretary Doug Stapleton reported that over the past 2 days, 147 songs had been lead by 174 people from 17 states and England.

The Resolutions Committee made the following statement: “‘He who sings, prays twice.’ (Francis of Assisi) In that spirit, we, the class of the 18th annual Midwest Convention, resolve to thank the officers, volunteers, committee members, cooks, hosts, space providers, pitchers, publicists, spouses, singers, listeners, and all those who had a part in anyway to make the last two days a great success, in praise of God.”

Karen Freund and Jerry Enright then called up the officers to lead 146 as the closing song while those who wished took the parting hand. Louis Hughes, Sr. led the closing prayer, and the class was dismissed.

Co-Chairs—Karen Freund and Jerry Enright; Vice Chairs—Lisa Grayson and Ted Mercer; Secretaries—Doug Stapleton and Cathryn Baker.