Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Garden State Convention

Upper Montclair, New Jersey

May 14-15, 1999

Friday, May 14

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

The class was called to order at 7:30 p.m. by Gina Balestracci, who welcomed everyone and led song on page 59. Marlin Beasley led the class in prayer.

The convention then went into a business session. Of special note during this session was the formal announcement and signing of documentation for the incorporation of the Garden State Sacred Harp Singers. This was the culmination of many months of work by Roland Hutchinson.

The following officers and committees were elected and appointed: Chairman—Gina Balestracci; Vice Chairman—Susan Bingham; Treasurer—Jean Seiler; Secretary—Rosemary Greenaway; Chaplains—Marlin Beasley, Mark Davis, George Seiler, and Cora Sweatt; Memorial Committee—Gina Balestracci and Rosemary Greenaway; Arranging Committee—Paula McGray and Laura Densmore; Keying—Mark Davis, Ginny Landgraf, Bob Parr, and Jean Seiler; Resolutions—Donna Abrahams; Reception—Susan Bingham and Marlene Levine; Food—Diane Mennella, Ellie Soler, Irene Carr, and Seth Holloway; Housing—Susan Bingham; Publicity—Roland Hutchinson and Ada Bruner of the Neward Star Ledger. The business session was closed.

The class resumed singing with Rosemary Greenaway leading song on 29t. Leaders: Jean Seiler 34b; Susan Bingham 198; Gina Balestracci 28t; George Seiler 168; Roland Hutchinson 28b; Ellie Soler 84; Dick Levine 300; Claire Simon 40; Michael Kaye 163b; Lynne deBenedette 421; Richard Schmeidler 474; Marlin Beasley 336; Karen Freund 77t; Tim Erikson 439; Gretchen Eckhardt 178.


The class resumed singing with Gina Balestracci leading song on 49t. Chairman Gina Balestracci introduced Mark Davis of Brandon, Mississippi, a respected singing school master and chairman of the Mississippi Convention.

He opened his lesson speaking about the shape-note tradition in northern Mississippi. There they sing from the Denson Book, Cooper Book, and Christian Harmony, and they sing seven syllables (do, re, mi...) to the four shapes. He gave a demonstration of how this would sound and invited anyone to sing the songs in this fashion. He then referred the class to his lesson sheets. Among his handouts was an exercise in the Rudiments of Music suited to give a novice a quick understanding of the scale, intervals and rhythm. We sang 42 “in 4” followed by beating “in 2.” The use of the two systems of beating time illustrated clearly how a change in rhythm and accent can change the character of a song. The class then sang 87 as an example of 2/4 time. 56b exemplified 3/4 time. 57 was sung as an example of compound time. The class sang several songs from the Eclectic Harmony: “Palmetto” (originally from the Christian Harmony and also Cooper Book 54), “Will You Meet Me?” (Cooper 559). Mark Davis spoke movingly of the Sacred Harp tradition of singing songs that have special meaning for family and relatives thereby keeping the emotional and spiritual connection through the generations. We sang such a song, “Eden”, adding verses one and five from “Amazing Grace”. Mr. Davis concluded his class by speaking about the use of the drone in Mississippi. This practice usually closes their singings. While the square remains seated, the leader calls forth three or four singers to sing the tune. The class drones on the final pitch of their phrase while the “leaders” repeat the phrase two or three times, continuing on until the song is finished, almost in a call and response method. The class used “The Traveller” (The Social Harp) as a drone. Mark Davis concluded his lesson with prayer.

The evening session ended with Gina Balestracci leading song on 510. George Seiler offered the closing prayer.

Saturday, May 15

On Saturday morning the class reassembled, and the session was called to order by Gina Balestracci leading song on 77b. Cora Sweatt offered the opening prayer.

Chairman Gina Balestracci brought to the class’s attention a message sent by two singers who were unexpectedly absent from Friday’s opening session. Barbara Swetman and Allen Fannin sent word of a car accident the day before that prevented their attendance. In their absence they requested that we sing 475 for them.

Leaders: Ginny Landgraf 218; Brenda Peña 178; David Boyle 159; Sally Findley 155; Nancy Thomas 84; Karen Snowberg 49b; Louis Naylor and George Seiler 347; Janet Shipman 199 (?); Jim Wantland 479; Tom Gibney 157; Martin DeNys 232; Gary Smith 569 (t? b?); Mirjana Lausevic 70b; Duncan Vinson [213T//213t]; Betty Hanf 481; Walter Hartley 480; Gerry Hoffman 272; Dan Hertzler 362; Martha Lang 48t; Lisa Davis 528; Katharine Hough 408; Seth Holloway 388; Cora Sweatt 312b.


The class resumed singing with Rosemary Greenaway leading song on 47t. Leaders: Inga Knetz 448b; David Hough 137; Chris Haller 236; Jim Metzger 99; Cheryl Stroud 183; Margaret Bornick 497; Blake Morris 297; Ginnie Ely, 196; Janine Smith 201b; Cathy Tucker 106; Bob Parr 377; Ron Bornick 186; Paula McGray 542; John Redman 551; Laura Clawson 496; Guy Bankes 441; Ann Kazlauskas 85; Hal Kunkel 304; Berkley Moore 378t; Donna Abrahams 260; Tim Brown 66; Tom Tucker and Mark Davis 300; Sarah Smith 384; Dennis Leipold 344; Bill Holt 376; Laura Densmore 350.

At this time the session was turned over the Memorial Committee. Rosemary Greenaway led song on page 171 for the following sick and shut-ins: Connecticut—Dot Garber and Susan Garber; Kentucky—George Myers; Mississippi—Bernice Embry; New Jersey—Jack Sacher and Dan Romanowski; New Mexico—Dodge Wiggins; New York—Allen Fannin, Janice Glanzrock, Harriet Henry, Bill Sullivan, Barbara Swetman, and Barry Talesnick; Wisconsin—Bob Scorgie. Gina Balestracci led song on 69b for the following deceased: Alabama—Maude Keeton and Mae Seymour; California—Harry Mullikan and Gary Parker; Maryland—Henry Romanowski, Sr.; Massachusetts—Ada Arkanase, John Marinelli, and William Von Arx; Mississippi—Johnny Porter and Cleo Hawkins; New Jersey—Judy Greenwald, Peter Husick, Morris Lee, and Nicole Brinker Schnarr; New York—Jim Dease, Dorothy Kelly, Penny McCall, David McCall, and Barbara Prudhomme; Ohio—Bob Bergman; Pennsylvania—Edna Lundgren; Virginia—Shirley Green and Mary Hulburt; Tennessee—Margaret Wright; Wisconsin—Evadne McNeil and Ellen Dorothy Nussbaum. George Seiler closed the Memorial Lesson with prayer.


The class was called back to order by Gina Balestracci leading song on page 28b. Leaders: Roland Hutchinson 553; Ellie Soler 277; Janine Smith 176t; Marlin Beasley 348b; David Hough 371; Sarah Beasley Smith 108t; Gabrielle Kastelle 34t; Louise Luger and Gina Balestracci 143; Cora Sweatt 47b; members of Joe Beasley’s family in attendance (Sarah Beasley Smith, Gary Smith, Seth Holloway, Marlin Beasley, Juanita Beasley, and Cora Beasley Sweatt) 146 (in tribute to Joe Beasley); Duncan Vinson 290; Cheryl Stroud 455; Dan Hertzler 288; Mark Davis and son, Kurt Davis 354 (t? b?); Ginnie Ely 454; Susan Bingham 107.


The class resumed singing with Diane Mennella leading song on 73b. Leaders: Gina Balestracci 112; Katharine Hough [378B//378b]; Marty DeNys 269; Cathy Tucker 144; Seth Holloway and mother, Sarah Beasley Smith 30t (this was the same song he led as a six-year old at a singing recorded on the new CD in his Uncle Joe Beasley’s memory); Nancy Thomas 63; Berkley Moore 215; Laura Clawson 532; Gary Smith 31t; Bob Parr 391; Blake Morris 179; George Seiler and Jean Seiler 217; Inga Knetz 430; Tom Tucker 189; Betty Hanf 209; Ron Bornick 299; Louis Naylor 452; Janet Shipman 306b; Jean Seiler, George Seiler, Susan Bingham, and Gina Balestracci 212; Lisa Davis 200; Tim Brown [38T//38t]; Chris Haller 351; Martha Lang 268; Carol Werba 163 (t? b?).

The Convention entered a business session to hear committee reports.

The Treasurer reported that the contributions received would cover the cost of the convention.

The Arranging Committee reported that 129 people from 18 states registered during the two days of the Convention, and that 78 leaders led 111 songs. State distribution of registrants is as follows: Alabama—5; Canada—1; Connecticut—6; District of Columbia—1; Illinois—1; Maryland—2; Massachusetts—14; Mississippi—3; Nebraska—1; New Hampshire—3; New Jersey—28; New York City—14; New York (upstate)—20; Pennsylvania—7; Rhode Island—3; Tennessee—3; Virginia—5; Vermont—1; Washington—11.

The Chairman of the Resolutions Committee gave thanks to the Creator and appreciation to the officers of the Convention and all the many people who made this Convention possible; the members of the Montclair Friends Meeting; the local constabulary; and the neighbors. Special thanks and appreciation to Roland Hutchinson for his work in getting the incorporation documentation completed.

The committee reports were all accepted as presented to the Convention.

Gina Balestracci led song on page 62 as the singers took the parting hand. The class was dismissed with closing prayer by George Seiler.

Chairman—Gina Balestracci; Vice-Chairman—Susan Bingham; Treasurer—Jean Seiler; Secretary—Rosemary Greenaway.