My Adventure with The Sacred Harp

So, today, I had to try to find out of any of the different versions of The Sacred Harp–each one claiming to be more authentic than the last, each one’s claim on true authenticity more dubious than the last, at least as far as I can tell–still had George Pullen Jackson’s historical piece up-front.  I ended up calling down to Carrollton, Georgia, where the Denson book is now published.

The gentleman I talked to informed me that there were nothing but hymns in his book.  He did not want it cluttered with any of that new junk.  That would be funny enough, considering that Jackson died in ’53.  But the thing that had me laughing the rest of the afternoon was that I swore I could practically hear the wink in his voice.

Sometimes the arguments are older than you are, and you just have them because you always have.  And what can you do in the face of your place in history but play your part when the tie comes and try to enjoy it?

4 thoughts on “My Adventure with The Sacred Harp

  1. Never mind whether the “new junk” is junk, there is a genuine difference in style between the songs in the Denson book and the newer songs in the Cooper book. (The Cooper book also has many of the older songs of the Denson book.) Many people (but not me) think the “new junk” is great.

  2. Aunt B.,

    Jackson’s Intro [a piece he wrote much earlier] was included in a facsimile edition of the 1859 Sacred Harp published in 1968 by Broadman Press. Its publication was not under the auspices of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. The current [1991] edition of the Sacred Harp certainly has some “new junk” in it; I’m curious as to who you talked to in Carrollton, as I know those people. I suspect that the Broadman edition was prepared by William J. Reynolds, who used to be head of the Music Department of the former Southern Baptist Sunday School Board; Bill’s still alive, and his son Tim still leads the local Sacred Harp group here. If you’re interested in any further adventures, you might consider coming to sing with us some time; check our web site at

    Or check out–a veritable cornucopia of shape-note info.

  3. I don’t want to cause that poor guy any trouble. I hope it was clear that I was teasing him a little–as is my way–and he was teasing back a little. I was tickled, as I love to be teased by old men.

    I was merely trying to determine whether the Jackson stuff was only in the 1968 Broadman edition or if it had been reproduced in other editions. It has not. Which means, as far as I can tell, that Jackson’s piece is no longer easily available to people. I’m hoping against hope to rectify that.

    I am, however, tickled to hear that William Reynolds is still alive. I have on my desk right now a copy of a letter to him, which makes clear that he was, indeed, very involved with the preparation of the 68 edition.

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