Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Kentucky State Sacred Harp Singing

Pisgah Presbyterian Church, Versailles, Kentucky

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The 38th annual Kentucky State Sacred Harp Singing, hosted by the Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers (AASHS), was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Ron Pen. Ron made a few announcements about the singing, schedule, and facilities. The Sacred Harp, 1991 Edition, and Southern Harmony were used throughout the day. Jim Thobaben offered the morning prayer, after which Ron led 73b.

Leaders: Raphael Finkel 489; Tim Morton 32t; Ray Rechenberg 277; Ray Turner 300; Greta Combs 376; Jim Herr 475; Clara Herr 29t; Rob Coulston 178 (for Jim Thobaben); Don Waggener 58; Donna Kwon 34b; Randy Webber “Rafael C. M.” (an original composition by Randy); Rob Coulston 288; Tom Morton 496; Brenda Waters and Tim Gregg 535; Mary Brinkman 313b; Bill Hollingsworth 30b; John Hollingsworth 354t; Joy Dunn 40.


The session was reconvened by Ron Pen. Leaders: Tim Gregg 87; Pearl Marshall 454; Gabrielle Manion 503; Eddie Mash 196; Amy Pemberton 411; Rafi Finkel 268 (for Kathy Sweeton); Ron Pen 455; Rafi Finkel 269; Tim Morton 217; Ray Rechenberg 564; Ray Turner 125; Greta Combs 155; Jim Herr 176t; Clara Herr 335; Don Waggener 341; Donna Kwon 71; Randy Webber 222; Rob Coulston 117; Tom Morton 457; Brenda Waters and Tim Gregg 515; Mary Brinkman 479.


Randy Webber conducted the memorial lesson. He read the following names of the sick and shut-ins: Steve Duff and Sue Duff. Jim Herr commented that Sue had had surgery and was also aging, and that caring for her was becoming hard for her husband, Steve. Jim led 68b for Steve and Sue.

After some comments from Randy about bereavement theory and process, Ron Pen made remarks about Hugh McGraw. Ron first met Hugh in 1982 in Berea, Kentucky, at the inaugural Kentucky Sacred Harp State Convention. Hugh was 51 years old at the time, and had a voice as powerful as a jet engine. At a break during the afternoon session that day, Hugh leaned over to Ron and whispered that he wouldn’t cross the street to hear the music, but I would walk a mile on broken glass to sing it. Ron sat next to Hugh again the following year at the Kentucky State Singing, and learned from Hugh, among other things, that the distinctive oblong profile of the 4-shape books fit on your lap that way. Hugh was a tireless evangelizer for this music during the early 1980s, sparking singings all over the country. He was the force behind the Sacred Harp Publishing Company as Executive Secretary, and wrote several of the tunes in The Sacred Harp, the most recent being the 1991 edition. Hugh McGraw died in May, 2017. Ron honored Hugh by leading 163b. Randy Webber also remarked about a conversation he had had with Hugh, some years back, about the similarity between Phillips Farewell (549), a composition of Hugh’s, and “Olive’s Brow,” a Lent hymn written by William Bradbury. Randy led 549 in memory of Hugh. Ray Rechenberg memorialized his daughter, Elizabeth, an Ohioan who had been a shape note singer and traveled frequently to singings with Ray. His other children sang shape note music too, but Elizabeth was the one who traveled with him. She died in May, 2018. Ray led 285t in memory of Elizabeth, no notes, both verses. Rob Coulston memorialized Steve Hirschberg, who died in 2018, in Jim Thobaben’s absence. Rob commented that he felt Steve had died a holy death, and led 128 in his memory. Greta Combs memorialized John Stephenson, a Virginian, a shape note singer, and past President of Berea College. John died in 1994. Greta commented that John at times had a wicked sense of humor, but that he was a brilliant man and could put people at ease in almost any situation. That concluded the memorial lesson. Randy Webber asked a blessing for the noon meal.


Rafi Finkel called the afternoon class together by leading 159b (SoH). Leaders: Laura Lee Earles 448t; Randy Webber 236 (for Kathy Sweeton); Eddie Mash 183t (SoH); Doug Trent 480; Tim Morton 89t (SoH); Jim Herr 157; Clara Herr 148; Amy Pemberton 59; Ray Rechenberg 49b; Ray Turner 70 (SoH); Greta Combs 171; John Hollingsworth 291; Joy Dunn 84; Tim Gregg 83 (SoH); Bill Hollingsworth 13t (SoH); Pearl Marshall 551; Ron Pen 209; Annaliza Cull 547.


Announcements of upcoming singings were made. Michele Cull, Annaliza Cull, and Amy Pemberton were thanked for filling in for Charles Coulston, our usual kitchen coordinator, who was unable to be there.

Rafi Finkel reconvened the session by asking Michele Cull to lead 540. Leaders: Don Waggener 322 (SoH); Donna Kwon 86; Randy Webber 115 (SoH); Rob Coulston 31t; Tom Morton 277; Annaliza Cull 504; Mary Brinkman 147t; Rafi Finkel 66; Rob Coulston 16 (SoH) (for Jim Thobaben); Ron Pen 146; Randy Webber 107; Ray Rechenberg 106.

The class sang 267 as the closing song, and all who wished took the parting hand. Rob Coulston gave the closing benediction, and the class was dismissed at 3:06 p.m.

Chairman and Treasurer—Charles H. Coulston; Secretary—Mary Brinkman