Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Garden State Convention

Upper Montclair, New Jersey

May 16-17, 1997

Friday, May 16

The fifth annual session of the Garden State Sacred Harp Convention was held at the Montclair Friends’ Meeting House.

The class was called to order by George Seiler, who welcomed everyone and led song on page 31t. Ginny Landgraf led the class in prayer.

Jean Seiler introduced the shapes for the benefit of new singers and led song on page 34b. Gina Balestracci led song on page 39t.

The class organized by electing the following officers: Chairman—Gina Balestracci; Vice Chairman—Jean Seiler; Secretary—Karen Snowberg; Arranging Committee—Paula McGray, George Seiler, Bill Holt, Barbara Swetman, and Dennis O’Brien; Memorial Committee—Ann Ballard and Ginnie Ely; Finance Committee—Donna Abrahams; Resolutions Committee—Marlin Beasley; Reception Committee—Susan Bingham and Marlene Levine; Food Committee—Virginia Douglas and Diane Mennella.

The class resumed singing with Karen Snowberg leading song on page 532. Leaders: Dick Levine 99; Margaret Bornick 117; Marty DeNys 547; Michael Kaye 49b; Diane Mennella 488; Lyra O’Brien 436; David Hough 384; Karen House 112; Bradford West 28t; Eleanor Soler 84; Guy Bankes 68b; Dan Hertzler 189.


The class resumed singing with Ginnie Ely leading song on page 228. Chairman Gina Balestracci introduced Buell Cobb of Birmingham, Alabama, teacher of the singing school. Buell’s topic for the evening was “Your time in the square-How to get out of it what you want to get out of it, with a view toward convention etiquette.”

There was a strong underlying theme stressing how important handed-down tradition is to singing Sacred Harp music. Buell included many wonderful historical recordings in his presentation. He discussed leading, where he said there are no rules-only practice, custom, and tradition. He led song on page 425 in memory of Dewey Williams, who frequently used to lead it.

Buell stressed the importance of communicating with the front bench in one of two ways-leading with confidence or telling what you want. He next commented on how many verses should be sung.

Buell prefaced his explanation of ornamentation and anticipation with a recording of the Lee family of south Georgia. He had the class try adding ornamentation on 56b.

Next he mentioned the occasional indulgence allowed to some leaders, to take the final repeat an extra time. The final recording featured the Wootten family singing 448 (t? b?), where the class itself demanded a further repeat. Buell closed his singing school leading the same.

The evening session ended with Gina Balestracci leading song on 173 and Ginny Landgraf leading prayer.

Saturday, May 17

On Saturday morning the class reassembled, and the session was called to order by Gina Balestracci leading song on 49t, after which she read a quote by Thoreau. Ginny Landgraf led the opening prayer. Leaders: Gina Balestracci 66; Frank Evans 315; Evan Duncan 148; Bob Parr 108b; Barbara Swetman 188; Katharine Hough 114; Ron Davies 273; Donna Abrahams 28b; Paula McGray 318; Blake Morris 378t; Paul Gauthier 101b; Richard Schmeidler 334; Ann Ballard 57; Dan Brittain 434; Lynne de Benedette 129; Bill Holt 271t; Susan Wantland 29t; Kelly House 442; Chuck Beasley 33b; Clare Chapin 86; Roland Hutchinson 553; Ginny Landgraf 455; Hal Kunkel 550; Jeff Colby 67; Kyle Greenlee 91; Laura Densmore 350; Dennis Leipold 351; Marlin Beasley 73t; Dottie Hurley 178; Kat Kinkade 216.


The class was called to order by Gina Balestracci leading song on page 73b. Leaders: Ron Bornick 107; Gabriel Kastelle 500; Susan Bingham 198; Dennis O’Brien 339; Carol Werba 147t; Becky Briggs 335; Doron Henkin 224; Tom Tucker 31t; Peter Pate 487; Cathy Tucker 106; Mirjana Lausevic 378b; Cora Sweatt 49b; Eva Smirloff 163b; Tim Wheeler 481; Tom Gibney 445; George Seiler 183; Karen Snowberg 430.

Ann Ballard and Ginnie Ely led the memorial lesson. They reminded us that the memorial lesson is a meaningful link to the singers of the past. It ties our hearts to those who have gone before us and who shared the same joys in their hearts from singing this music. We honor and remember them.

As the class hummed 285t, Ann Ballard read the names of those who have passed away this year: Johnnie Sue Beasley and Tom Harper—Alabama; Gail Rich—California; Katherine Sayvetz—Colorado; Betty Snowberg—Illinois; Lawrence Brooks—Massachusetts; Adell Dawson and Mary Howell Romanowski—Maryland; Ruth F. Ewell, Jean DePalma, and Gabe Wiener—New York; Quay Smathers—North Carolina. The class then sang 285t.

Ginny Ely honored the sick and shut-in with song on page 340: Amanda Denson and Jap Walton—Alabama; Madolin McGray—Massachusetts; Arthur Perkins and Linda Weis—New Jersey; Dodge Wiggins—New Mexico; Erick Marketan—New York; Mary Elizabeth Wise—Ohio; Catherine Cessna—Pennsylvania; Alexa Clifford—Virginia; Johnny Jeans—Washington.

Regular singing resumed with the following leaders: Dick Levine 503b; Margaret Bornick 313b; Marty DeNys 269; Michael Kaye 569b; Lyra O’Brien 113; and David Hough 282. Peter Pate led the class in a blessing.


The afternoon session was called to order by Gina Balestracci leading song on page 34b. Leaders: Marty DeNys 327; Barbara Swetman 142; Howard Katz 362; Brenda Peña 229; Becky Briggs 460; Buell Cobb 131b; Kelly House 128; Ginny Ely 328; Dan Brittain 138t; Bill Holt 217; Jean Seiler 299; Marlin Beasley 63; Peter Pate 132; Paul Gauthier 542; Susan Wantland 200; Clare Simon 268; Lynne deBenedette 501; Blake Morris 32t; Karen House 324; Chuck Beasley 30t; Bradford West 102; Ann Ballard 277; Guy Bankes 474; Katharine Hough 480; Dan Hertzler 48t; Cora Sweatt 159; Dennis O’Brien 477; Paula McGray 155.


Gina Balestracci brought the class together leading song on page 28t. Leaders: Tom Gibney 290; Bob Parr 546; Timothy Wheeler 296; Cathy Tucker 40; Donna Abrahams 203; Mirjana Lausevic 122; Tom Tucker 504; Doron Henkin 192; Gabriel Kastelle 385t; Ron Bornick 84; Kat Kinkade 372; Elise Meyer-Bothling 276; Dennis Leipold 300; Laura Densmore 228; Jeff Colby 101t; Hal Kunkel 497; Dottie Hurley 47t; Clare Chapin 523; Ginny Landgraf 326; Evan Duncan 479; Richard Schmeidler 146.

Gina Balestracci asked for the state count. The 159 singers came from 13 states and the District of Columbia: New Jersey 65; New York 30 (t? b?); Massachusetts 13; Virginia 10, Pennsylvania 10; Maryland 6; Connecticut 6; Alabama 6; Washington State 3; Rhode Island 3; Vermont 2; Florida 2; Tennessee 2; Washington, D.C. 1.

Marlin Beasley presented the Resolutions Committee report and thanked:

  1. all the officers, committees, and individuals whose efforts contributed to the success of the convention;
  2. our Creator that we have been given the desire and the talent for singing this music;
  3. the singers who came distances to join their voices together with ours in the spirit God has given us.

He led 400 for all the time and effort given to make the convention successful.

Leaders: Roland Hutchinson 287; Mary Alice Greene 401; Frank Evans 284; Susan Bingham 46; Ron Davies 180; Ginnie Ely 454.

The officers led 62 and those who wished took the parting hand. Chaplain Peter Pate closed the convention with prayer.

Chairman—Gina Balestracci; Vice Chairman—Jean Seiler; Secretary—Karen Snowberg.