The only time I had ever heard of a singing convention was when Joe talked about his grandmother going to them. Then 2 years ago our friend, Patti invited us to the one which is held every October in Decatur.
Unlike my husband’s family, I’m not very musical. I wish I could sing, but I can’t really. My voice is too low to sing soprano and alto is a little difficult to learn. But I enjoy listening.
Singing conventions are centered around shaped notes music, 4 part harmony, Southern Gospel and incredible pianists. A brief overview of shaped notes: each of the 7 shapes tell which tone of the scale it’s on. People who are familiar with it can sing parts (bass, tenor, alto, soprano) music they’ve never seen before and change keys without a problem. Heavenly Highway Hymns is a shaped notes book.
That’s about all I can grasp. For more in depth information, you can go here for a History of shaped notes in Southern Gospel.
Very talented musicians are still writing this style and publishing new books about every year. Texas Legendary Music lists some of the publishers and also has the 2010 schedule of events all across the U.S.
Several of the attendees were songwriters. And the pianists are incredible. One man, Cecil is 90 years old and it’s a joy to hear him play. When I get permission to post the other songs, I’ll upload them to youtube and do an updated post.
Click here for a youtube video of the Decatur convention. The song is “Vacation Bible School”, a very clever, catchy tune by one of our talented local musicians, Blake Boyd. The chorus incorporates lines from several of the wonderful old songs we learned as children.
Meetings are still conducted very much like the description in the link above. Anyone who desires to sing, play or lead the congregation is given the opportunity. It isn’t dinner on the grounds anymore, but there’s a covered dish lunch on Saturday.
Admission is free, but an offering plate is passed to cover expenses.
I highly recommend it.