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Sweet Is the Day Transcript

Transcript to Sweet Is the Day.

SWEET IS THE DAY CHAPTERS




Introduction to the Wooten Family (0:00)




"Sweet Is the Day" opens with a scene of a group of people singing on a front porch. The music is from The Sacred Harp (orig. 1844), a tunebook printed in shape notes and designed for congregational singing. The singers are members of the Wootten family of northeast Alabama. The Woottens are one of the great singing families in Sacred Harp tradition. This scene was filmed in 1980 by folklorist Alan Lomax.

(Singing: "Corinth")(3)
Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of thee?
Ashamed of thee whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days.

(Singing continues in background)

Syble Adams: We probably aren't that much different than a lot of other families. I think the biggest difference that I could say with our families is that there's so many of us that like it, and the family kept it up until recent years, and, like I say, I can see it dropping off.

Mack, Chester, Carnice, and Freeman are the sons of Jesse and Beulah Wootten-it was their generation whose avid embrace of Sacred Harp tradition established the Woottens as a singing family.

Mack Wootten: Why, this is the original, Mack Wootten, and there will never be another one. And, I'm glad to be here, proud to see all of you, so thank you.

Chester Wootten: Chester Wootten, the oldest boy.

Carnice Wootten: I'm Carnice Wootten, the fourth boy.

(Singing)
Ashamed of thee whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days.

Freeman Wootten: Postell, he died first. "Check" [nickname for Chester] died second, and Carnice then died third, and Mack died fourth. And it just left me-well, I thought I had a load on my shoulders. I never did - I always depended on them to key the music, start it, and all of that. I depended on them to do that. So, I've missed them so much, still do.

(Singing)
Ashamed of Jesus!
Just as soon let midnight be ashamed of noon;
'Tis midnight will my soul till he,
Bright morning star, bids darkness flee.

 




"You will go, you will smile, and you will enjoy it" (3:24)




This segment of the film opens with a contemporary singing school (4) taught by Terry Wootten, son of Carnice and Myrtle Wootten.

Terry Wootten: Now, we'll go kind of slow the first time, so you'll have a little time to think about your notes. Here we go. (The class sings "fa-sol-la-fa-sol-la-mi-fa," the scale of shape notes.(5)) We may sing the scale lots of times, and you might get tired of it, but that… When you learn to do that, that's when you'll start being a good singer. The triangle's "fa", the square note's "la", the round's "sol", diamond shape "mi". We're going to keep it kind of simple because I'm kind of single-minded. So, that's the way we're going to have to deal with that.

Class: fa-sol-la-fa-sol-la-mi-fa-mi-la-sol-fa-la-sol-fa

Terry Wootten: When we sing a song, all these different parts, they're singing a different note. And all these different parts, they're singing a different note. And that's what makes it sound good. Now, let's sing the notes again, and we're going to speed up just a little bit. Speed up just a little. All right, now y'all make your hand go up and down when I do, and if I miss it, y'all just miss it, too. (Laughter) Down-up.

(Singing: "Fairfield" (6))
Come, humble sinner,
In whose breast a thousand thoughts revolve.

Terry Wootten: My first real singing school was probably in '73. I became real interested. And, up to that time, we didn't sing a whole lot of new songs. We sang kind of what we were used to - just used to and we sang what we learned from our parents. And the other songs in the book that they didn't sing, we never did try to sing them. So, after that, I became real interested and I wanted to learn these new songs.

So, at that time, we farmed all the time. We grew potatoes. And I had one old book I took to the field every day, and I put it up on my tractor. And after I'd get everything set and get the plows to plowing like I wanted them to do, I got out my book and I sang.

(Singing)
Come with guilt and fear oppressed
And make this last resolve.

Terry Wootten: The four shape system (7) is-that's the best thing that's ever been invented as far as learning to sing. There's two reasons why we sing the shapes. Singing the shapes is our method of learning the tune and singing the shapes is a tradition. Years ago, there was singing schools taught in this area and in all other areas, and that's what they did at the singing school. They sang the notes, then they sang the words. And they also did that at their all-day singings. That's what they done.

(Singing)
Come with guilt and fear oppressed
And make this last resolve.

Terry Wootten: We met at singing.

Sheila Wootten: I thought he was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen, and I knew how involved he was in singing. I never was that fond of going to singing. I didn't understand it. It wasn't the type of music I was really into, but I thought then I'd learn more about it if I could get to know him, so I did it.

(Singing Fa-Sol-La: "The Young Convert" (8), p. 24)

Terry Wootten: The same notes, again.

(Continue singing)

Terry Wootten: Beating time (9) is just like riding down the road with your hands stuck out by a fence and if you don't raise it up to go over the post, it's going to slap your hand. (Laughter) So, that's just like the measure bars. When you go down through here, your hand has to go over the measure bar and start down on the other side. So, if you get lost, when you start that first measure on the right hand side of the measure bar, your hand is supposed to be going down. So, that's just like I said, beating down, when you come to the fence post, your raise your hand up and go down on the other side. When converts first begin to sing - wonder, wonder, wonder.

Terry Wootten: If we're just here at the house, normally we don't sing-when we're not singing with the group. I sing by myself sometimes. I sing to my chickens. Lots of times when I'm in the chicken house, I sing to them. They really like minor music better than they like major music.

(Singing Fa-Sol-La)

Terry Wootten: As long as we have kids growing up in our family in the traditions that we grew up in, it'll continue.

Marty Wootten: When I was just a kid, they used to have a lot more singing schools than we do now. And I can remember all of my great-uncles getting all - the singing schools then were mainly for the kids, to try to get them to sing.

Robin Smith: When you had a singing school, it was just like coming to church. And you better be there and that's the way I explained it to my children today. "You will go, you will smile, and you'll enjoy it." (Laughter)

Voice: 203

(Singing: "Florida" (10), p. 203)

Let the sinners take their course,
and choose the road to death;
But in the worship of my God,
I'll spend daily breath.
But in the worship of my God,
I'll spend daily breath.

 




"Dinner on the ground and the devil all around" (12:18)




Gertha Parker, Olivia Allen, Jeanette Mosteller, and Robin Smith-all daughters and granddaughters of Jesse and Beulah Wootten-are discussing the importance of Sacred Harp values in passing Sacred Harp tradition on to children.

Gertha Parker: I can remember my daddy a-singing or trying to sing. Mama would help him. He would sing out of this little hymnbook. And then she taught him how to - I don't know if he knew the notes or not, I think she taught him that. And from then, as the children all come on, why we'd all sing and sit around the fireplace and sing at night before we went to bed. She wanted all of us to sing in the Sacred Harp. She woke me up a million times at night, down beside of her bed praying. And she'd always pray for her boys, and that they would take up, you know, and do the things she wanted them to do. She wanted them all to be singers. But I never did hear her pray for me and Olivia.

Olivia Allen: She never prayed for us. I never heard her pray for me.

Robin Smith: She knew she had good girls. It was those boys. Unfortunately, I feel like my girls are not as exposed to it as much as I would like for them to be. When we become so interested in it that we're only singing it because of the art in it, then we have missed the application that the music and the words are saying to us.

Jeanette Mosteller: It always gets me in the mood for a worship service, and every morning we get up and we put our tape in, every Sunday morning, we put our tape in before we go to church of the Sacred Harp now. Even 500 miles away and putting our Sacred Harp tape in. And when I'm homesick, I want my Sacred Harp tape in, and that just-makes it worse.

Robin Smith: Every second Sunday in April, that is the big day, and you always plan on going to the singing at Antioch (11). And I can remember, it's usually near Easter, and we would always get a new dress. I just felt like, this was really special being a Sacred Harp singing, at Antioch, on the second Sunday in April, with a new dress-and it's been that way for the rest of my life. I would never dream of coming to the second Sunday in April without a new dress.

"Antioch" is an annual all-day singing (12) organized by members of the Wootten family.

Gertha Parker: Back then, they didn't have nothing, you know. They just lived from day to day. You worked hard, and I think it's because we're not as humble now as they were back in them days. I know I'm not, and I take too much for granted.

(Singing: "Liverpool")(13)
Young people all attention give,
And hear what I shall say,
I wish your souls in Christ to live,
In everlasting day.

Remember you are hastening on
To Death's dark gloomy shade.
Your joys on earth will soon be gone,
Your flesh in dust be laid.

The scene shifts to Antioch Church on the evening before the annual singing. Terry Wootten and filmmaker Jim Carnes are setting up the chairs in the traditional "hollow square" (14) arrangement.

Terry Wootten: We'll do probably a short bench for alto, and then we'll fill in on the bass, and the treble with chairs.

Jim Carnes: Do you want this one on tenor?

Terry Wootten: Yeah. Is that enough room?

Jim Carnes: Yeah.

Terry Wootten: How's that?

Jim Carnes: That's good.

(Singing Fa-Sol-La)

(Singing: "Primrose," p. 47) (15)
Salvation, O the joyful sound!
'Tis pleasure to our ears,
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

Buried in sorrow and sin,
At Hell's dark door, we lay,
But we arise by grace divine
To see a heavenly day.

Salvation! Let the echo fly
The spacious earth around.
While all the armies in the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.

Freeman Wootten: It's been a wonderful thing in my life. When you're down and out, even out at work, you can go to singing, and it'll help you. You can get through the day better.

(Singing: "Devotion," p. 48) (16)
Sweet is the day of sacred rest.
No mortal care shall seize my breast.
O may my heart in tune be found
Like David's harp of solemn sound.

Then shall I share a glorious part
When grace hath well refined my heart,
And fresh supplies of joy are shed
Like holy oil to cheer my head.

Then shall I see and hear and know
All I desired and wished below,
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.

Speaker: Everybody, if you would, go in the front here, and we'll form a line or two. The first thing that we do when we get in there, we'll ask the blessing.

Guy Parker: There used to be a saying, but I'm not going to say it. "Dinner on the ground, (17) and whiskey all around," is what I've heard.

Gertha Parker: "Dinner on the ground, and the devil all around," is what I've heard.

Guy Parker: Yeah, that's it. "Dinner on the ground, and the devil all around." Well, that's not proper for church people.

Gertha Parker: I wish I had a nickel each dinner I have fixed in my life for dinners, I mean, for singings. I bet I made a thousand of those apple pies. Now, that's my hobby-making apple pies.

Myrtle Wootten: We talk. We all talk. We tell one another what we're going to do. Some of them will bring potato salad, some slaw, and some green beans, and some dressing, and some dumplings, and some chicken. We're having fifty chickens barbecued. I'm taking freezer slaw, deviled eggs, a Swiss chocolate cake, dumplings, dressing, sweet potato pie, and turnip greens. And I always want to get there before it starts, but I never do. Hey, do you want to sample it?

Syble Adams: Mother's done her share. She's better at it than I am. Much better than I am.

Delta Wootten: Well, I don't know about that.

Syble Adams: The women of mother's generation has a lot that women in my generation don't have. I don't know if it's grit or what.

Delta Wootten: Well, I wake up at 5 o'clock, and she likes to sleep until 7 or 8. (Laughter)

Syble Adams: Yeah, right.





"We call it 'the spirit came'" (24:05)




Barrett Ashley: I hadn't heard anybody say anything about it, but I'm glad to be here. (Laughter)

Terry Wootten: When a leader (18) is called up, he'd have a certain song that they really liked to sing.

Barrett Ashley: Well, I want to sing a 186. 186.

Terry Wootten: After the leader sings that over the years, just a lots and lots of times, you identify that song with that person.

(Singing: "Sherburne," p. 186. (19) "Sherburne" is a style of composition called a fuguing tune.) (20)
While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

Terry Wootten: A lot of times as we think about different people that's died, and I might get up and go to a singing this morning, I might be thinking about one of them ,so I sing the song that makes me think about them.

(Singing)
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

Sheila Wootten: I like letting other people know that there's more to it than just singing. It's not just a type of folk music. It's a feeling of a - a deep spiritual feeling.

(Singing)
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

Syble Adams: We haven't seen this in a long, long time, but at a different singings, I'll go back to Antioch because you were explaining with Antioch. I have been to that singing where we'd just be singing and having a real good melody - harmonious singing - and then the feeling would change. It's hard to explain something like that. It's very difficult because it's totally unlike anything that you can put into words, but we would call it "the Spirit came." And the tears would start rolling, and you could just see everybody all over the house enjoying it. You could hear men or you could see the men crying - I mean, the tears rolling and smiling and laughing.

Delta Wootten: Happy tears.

Syble Adams: Happy, happy tears, and you could hear, "Amen," just all over the singing congregation, even back in the back, too, you know. You could just hear it all over. It would just be bouncing from here to here to here, and it was wonderful - maybe it's desire. I guess that has a big part to play in it - desire and willingness for it to happen when it does happen. I think we've gotten to where we don't take the time. You can't be ashamed to shed tears and enjoy yourself. It just doesn't work. I can to a singing - and Daddy (Chester "Check" Wootten) is the same way - sick, back hurts, I've got a headache, you know, whatever. And if the singing gets good, it goes away.

Delta Wootten: You see how she bounces.

Syble Adams: You aren't sick anymore. You aren't sick anymore.

(Singing)

Syble Adams: I really don't care what anybody thinks about me and Daddy because he was Daddy, and to me, he was wonderful. And I can brag on him if I want to, can't I? And I think he had talent that is probably not the most blessed talent, but it is one of the most blessed talents.

Delta Wootten: He was not a perfect man, but he had winning ways, now.

Pam Wilkerson: He taught me to sing. I guess he probably taught you too?

Rhonda Arnold: Yeah, he taught us all to sing. And that's one thing that's kind of drawn me into it a little more is after he passed away, it's just what he left with us, and I always remember that.

Pam Wilkerson: Very rarely do I go to a singing and what I look up and I expect to see Granddaddy over there with his hand doing like this while he's singing, you know.

Syble Adams: And when you have a singing like this, and everything sounds so pretty, you know, he's right up there. And it just seems like we can just bring him in.

(Singing: "Wondrous Love," p. 159)(21)
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

Chester Wootten: I'm proud of what I love and that's Sacred Harp singing. There's a lot of people that can beat me at singing, but there are not a whole lot of people that can beat me at loving it.

(Singing: "Primrose," p. 47)
Salvation, O the joyful sound!
'Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound
A cordial for our fears

Phillip Wootten: The good part about Sacred Harp singing is that each and everyone is there singing has the same attitude. They're there to fellowship (22) and they're there to sing, and the majority of them is there to sing praises to the Lord. If you couldn't have fellowship with your brother, then the singing wouldn't last long. It would die out, it would be dead in a short period of time.

(Singing)

Speaker: I want to say I'm glad that each one of you come and helped make the day what it's been. It's been a blessing to me, and I hope it has to you.

Speaker: Four or five years ago, we started having so many out-of-state singers when it really got popular up north. Actually, I think Sacred Harp is growing more up there than it is here.

At this point we hear the traditional "announcements" (23) of upcoming singings that are customarily given at the end of a singing. The presence of singings in such places as Colorado, New Mexico, and Chicago is the consequence of the spread of Sacred Harp outside the traditional areas in the south.

Buell Cobb: The National Convention is at Birmingham the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the third Sunday in June.

Ted Johnson: There's a convention that alternates between New Mexico and Colorado. This year it will be in Fort Collins, Colorado, the third weekend.

Connie Karduck: We'd like to see you all in Chicago, the last Sunday and Saturday before, this month, at the Midwest convention. You're all very welcome to come and be there.

Bud Oliver: The fourth Sunday in August is our convention on Lookout Mountain, and we'd like to have you all come. There's one or two visitors here that I haven't seen out there yet. We sure would like to have you. (Laughter)





"Before long, you'd have a porch full" (30:38)




This section of "Sweet Is the Day" concerns the Wootten farming operation on Sand Mountain (24) and the long-standing association of Sacred Harp with agrarian life. It opens with an interview, filmed by Alan Lomax in 1980, with Chester Wootten discussing his farm.

Carnice Wootten: We just made a living here on the farm. It started out with Papa and Mack and Check bought the 120 acres here and then I wound up with all of it, just about it, me and the boys together. Well, all of it, I wound up with all of it and then some more added to it. That's just about the history from '35 up to now.

Carnice Wootten: This is my second son, Dewayne Wootten.

Dewayne Wootten: All my life, I've worked right here, born down about a quarter of a mile. And when I got 19, I married, and I live about a quarter of a mile from here now. I've been here all my life. I don't know of anywhere I'd like to go any better than here. We make our, you know, all of our living right here. A lot of friends, good neighbors, a good community to live in. We enjoy it.

(Engine Cranking. Chicks chirping.)

Dewayne Wootten: When Daddy first started getting chickens about 1956 through '57, and his house was 200 feet long, it only held 8,000 chickens. He was one of the first men in this area had chickens. There was a span from about 1971 to '89 that we didn't have any chickens. We did row cropping and just farmed all together. And of course, we had the feed store and the lawn-mower shop out here going. Daddy started it in - when '70 or '71.

Everything about the chicken business has advanced so fast since we were first in the business, and we went back in the second time, we just had to forget all we ever knew because we'd do everything wrong. Just now it's so much different from them - it's unreal. I wish it was where Daddy could be here and see some of this now. 109,400.

(Chickens clucking and chirping. Engine running.)

Dewayne Wootten: Daddy got - he had a heart attack, and he had to slow down. But Terry mostly went to helping him at the business at Ider, and me and Levon stayed up here in the farm all the time. Daddy just about had to quit. Well, Terry'd just run the place, and he just kind of been out there all the time.

Terry Wootten: This is where Dad started out when he opened up the business, and it just happened so that's mother's car sitting there. She was out visiting the day they made the picture. This is the store we're in now, where we do the bookwork, just an office for us to - sometimes we'll hide in here when we don't want to talk to everybody.

When I was small, the cotton was a pretty big deal here. That was, really cotton was everybody's money crop, and then before I got grown, it was just completely gone. And potatoes was, was a money crop then, and there still are potatoes growing now.

Jeffrey Wootten: The potato business was all I knowed, well, every since I was just a little bitty boy, that's all I can ever remember doing. And I really enjoyed it and didn't want to quit and didn't want them to quit. So when they quit, that was really the opportunity for me, and I stepped in. I got all the stuff that they had and now I'm like about 75 acres being as big as they was and next year I'll be bigger than they was.

Delta Wootten: You have to farm big nowadays to make - really make a living. Little farmers like we used to be, you couldn't make very much. Just you'd get by, and that would be it.

Syble Adams: Tell them about how y'all bought your first, how you bought your farm.

Delta Wootten: We bought it by and paid for it with cotton, two bales of cotton a year.

Olivia Allen: They'd all work in the fields all day, Papa and the boys would work. And when they got through, everybody would congregate on our front porch and sing just Sacred Harp.

Syble Adams: I can remember sitting out on the front porch, and just as dusk would start to fall, probably Uncle Mack and they lived down there where Dewayne lives. They might walk up. And Uncle Carnice and them live back there where Terry used to live before he built his new house. They'd come up. Well, Daddy and his brothers, up until the time came to start singing, they'd argue about something. They would always argue, but it was fun, you know. Uncle Mack, I can just hear Uncle Mack, "Aw, Check, you know better than that." And then they'd, "Aw, Mack." You know, they would argue, but they'd laugh and they'd have fun. Well, somewhere during all of that, you would hear Daddy or one of the brothers - Uncle Mack a lot of the times. Most of the time, it would be Uncle Mack-sol-fa. You know, and then he'd start out… most of the time, he'd start out. (Singing) "On Jordan's stormy banks I'd stand." Well, by that time, if we didn't stop what we were doing and go running, he'd say, "All right, kids, come on," and before long, we'd have a porch full and sit around and sing.

(Singing: "Hallelujah," p. 146.(25) "Hallelujah" is an example of a campmeeting song.)(26)
And let this feeble body fail,
And let it faint and die.
My soul shall quit the mournful vale
And soar to worlds on high.

And I'll sing hallelujah,
And you'll sing hallelujah,
And we'll all sing hallelujah,
When we arrive at home.

 




"He throwed his life to it" (38:47)




Freeman Wootten: My mother was a Haynes. That is my Grandfather and Grandmother Haynes, and this is my Mother and my Daddy. And this is our family growing up. That's ole Eva and that's me, Carnice, Mack, Postell, Check, and Gert. I carry that to the reunion every year.

(Singing: "Oh Jesus, my savior, I know thou art mine," #109(27) from Lloyd's Primitive Hymns)(28)
Oh Jesus, my savior, I know thou art mine,
For thee all the pleasures of sin I resign.
Of objects most pleasing I love thee the best.
Without thee I'm wretched, but with thee I'm blest.

I find him in singing, I find him in prayer.

Terry Wootten: I learned the tune of this song from my Granddaddy and all of my uncles and my dad - they used to sing it at church. I can remember two times that different cousins called everybody and invited them to their house to sing. I don't remember how many years it's been, but it's a few years back.

(Singing: "Oh Jesus, my savior" continues, sung by the group at the event known as the Wootten "cousins' singing")(29)
All glory to Jesus
He dwells in my heart.

Terry Wootten: I don't think there was ever a point in time or anything like that that they set aside for all of them to get together. It just happened.

(Singing: "Precious Memories")(30)
Precious mem'ries, unseen angels.

Terry Wootten: I had talked to different cousins and told them I would love to, you know, for us all to get together again. We sent them all an invitation, and all of them showed up but three. There was 82 counted, but there was some people up the stairs and under the balcony that they couldn't see. I'm going to guess there was 90 here last night.

(Singing)

Freeman Wootten: Of course Terry wanted me there. I was the only uncle that was left. And of course Terry's good to me. I think the world of Terry. He calls about me now. But anyway, I reckon I just got out of the hospital then, and I didn't. I wanted to go, man, I wanted to go so bad.

Terry Wootten: Where's the portable phone?

Syble Adams: Terry, you need to change that.

Terry Wootten: Oh, I was going to call Uncle Freeman, and let him hear it.

Syble Adams: Oh, okay. Let her get Uncle Freeman on the phone.

Syble Adams: Uncle Freeman.

Freeman Wootten: Yeah.

Sheila Wootten: Can you hear us?

Freeman Wootten: Not bad.

Sheila Wootten: Good. (Laughter)

Sheila Wootten: That sounds real good. They're going to sing you a song. Okay.

(Singing: "Morning," p. 163)(31)

Freeman Wootten: Another great consolation that you have to think that that many of your nieces and nephews that still does it just like we did. And thats good, and I'm proud of them. I think the world of Terry. Terry means a lot to me because he has throw'd his life to it.

Terry Wootten: Stand to your feet as we sing.

(Singing: "Just As I Am")(32)
Just as I am, thy love unknown.

Freeman Wootten: So now if anything happened, you call on Terry. So, when he's old, there will be some of the rest of them come up. So I think as it'll just come on up and come on down and just keep going. I don't believe it'll ever stop.

(Singing: "Wondrous Love")
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down.

Jeffrey Wootten: I would love to ask each and everyone that's here to remember us in prayer. It's bad. She might need to have another surgery. It's kind of hard to accept that, so y'all just remember her in your prayers.

Philip Wootten: Heavenly Father and Lord and Master of all. Lord, we ask you to be with Brother Jeffrey and his family and the little girl. Heavenly Father, comfort them and give them the strength that they need. Oh, Lord, you said you wouldn't put more on us than we could bear. Heavenly Father, we know through all things that you can carry the burdens of all of us. Dear Lord, you said to take my yoke upon you, my burdens, my burdens is light, Lord, and you know all things and you know what they need. Dear Heavenly Father, just strengthen them here tonight. And, Lord, you know each one that's gathered around here. At this time, Lord, if there's anyone that knows you not, if you'll please pardon their sin, Lord. You know them, and I'm not just saying our Heavenly Father to get acquainted with one that can enrich their life, Lord, and give them peace within their soul. We thank you, again, Lord. If one of us hurt, Lord, they all hurt. We thank you for even having those kind of feelings, Lord, that we can and we can just mourn with those that mourn and we can rejoice with those who rejoice. These are great favors and we ask the one that can grant in all things, in the name of Christ, amen.

(Singing)
Just as I am, thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down.
Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O, Lamb of God, I come, I come!




"I want to die a-shoutin'" (46:48)




(Birds Chirping)

Freeman Wootten: This is my granddaddy and my grandmamma.

Speaker: Oh, what a wonderful picture!

Freeman Wootten: And so, I'm going in to hang it up. Terry told me that somebody - he got the word somewhere that they came to the first family reunion. And I don't know where it was at, but he said it was 1896.

Speaker: 1896.

Freeman Wootten: So that would be about around 100 years old. I always enjoy it, look forward to it, you know, to this day.

(Indistinct chattering.)

Terry Wootten: I want to sing the notes and the first verse. As we sing the second, I want all the first cousins of this family to stand up so now that will be y'all's group. Now that won't include me because I ain't that old. (Laughter from audience)

(Singing: "Love At Home" (33) from the Sacred Harp, Cooper Revision)(34)
There is beauty all around
When there's love at home.
There is joy in every sound
When there's love at home.

Freeman Wootten: When I was young, we'd go to that Haynes reunion (35), and back then all of them was a-living. I can remember every one of them - no, there's one I can't remember. But there was 14 of them, you see. The girls made the treble, and the boys made the bass and part of the tenor, and that was a class itself, you know. And I'll tell you they could sing, they could sing. And as they got older some of them couldn't come in the house. They'd sit out at the window - come up to the window, you know, and they'd sing songs for them, you know, as long as they lived. And it was - it's just been a special day all of our lives. Now, all of the older ones is gone, and a lot of the next generation is gone. And it's just a few of us in that generation that's here, but then the next generation, our children, there's so many of them that's just coming on with it.

(Singing: "Sweet By and By")(36)

Freeman Wootten: They'd call, say our family, Mama's family - they'd say "Aunt Beulah"-my mother is Beulah. Aunt Beulah's family, and it still goes that way now. Each family is called.

Terry Wootten: I know we have several of those. Y'all just come on up, these that's coming up here, and you know whether you're kin to them or not, so just come up here. Okay, next. Beulah, Mama Wootten. All you Woottens hit the floor. This all of them? Our crowd's a lot thinner than it used to be. 28, page 28 on the bottom. And we'll sing it right slow where you can get the juice out of it.

(Singing Fa-Sol-La)

(Singing: "Wells," p. 28)(37)
Life is time to serve the Lord,
A time to insure the great reward.

Freeman Wootten: My mother was a Haynes, but she was a shoutin' (38) woman. And some people are ashamed of it now, but I'm not. She liked that song - I don't know what's the name of it-"I'm want to live a Christian here, I want to die a-shoutin'." Well, she was granted that privilege. My brother, he had preached at the association.(39) I don't know whether you know what the association is or not. It's like a convention.

Olivia Allen: So that was one thing you did not miss was the association. And of course I never did like to go because they preached all day and didn't sing all day. And so, but this particular Sunday, we was getting ready to go. So my husband got in the car with all of us, all the kids. So I drove with my mother and daddy. And we got to Ider, and she said, "Jesse, I've got to have a dip of snuff." So we went on to church, and my brother Postell was to preach at 11 o'clock. So by the time John and me got there, though, to go in the house, it was so full we couldn't find seats except in the back.

Terry Wootten: Postell had been picked to preach on Sunday morning at 11 o'clock. So they sang an hour. They started at 10, and they sang until 11, and then he preached until lunchtime. And as long as I can remember, my grandmother - and I always call her Mama - she couldn't get around. Somebody had to, you know, kind of lead her around. She couldn't walk by herself. So at the end of his sermon at lunchtime - before they dismissed for lunch, whoever had preached that morning, everybody always went around and shook hands with them.

Freeman Wootten: So they go up to shaking hands after he sat down. Everybody, of course, they started a song and they went to shaking hands, and she was happy. And then, just went away.

Olivia Allen: So somebody in front of me said, "Your mother, something's wrong." So I looked up, and Mack was carrying her outside.

Terry Wootten: You know, I was small, and everybody was standing up. But you know, I could, you could tell something was going on because there was people, you know, going up there and some people going out. But that's the biggest part I can remember about it. And I do remember Levon, my older brother, did take her, and probably some of the rest of her children went with them to the hospital. But I mean it didn't do any good because she died right in the church meeting.

Olivia Allen: And one of her prayers, she always - she said when she died, she wanted to die a-shouting. So she got to Postell to hug his neck and died happy and had her heart attack right there.

Sylvia Adams: She always shouted. These last few years, she always shouted.

Marlon Wootten: It was a good day, and she just enjoyed it. She just went right on, right on rejoicing.

Freeman Wootten: And that's another thing that you have to be proud of because she got what she always wanted.

Jeanette Mosteller: Not very many people get to die - get their requests honored like that.

(Singing)

Phillip Wootten: To die a-shouting would be, that would be the best way in the world to go.

(Singing: "The Parting Hand," p. 62 (40) - sung as singers "take the parting hand")
O could I stay with friends so kind,
O would it cheer my drooping mind!
But duty makes me understand
That we must take the parting hand.

(Singing: "Hallelujah")
And let this feeble body fail,
And let it faint or die.
My soul shall quit this mournful vale,
And soar to worlds on high.

And I'll sing hallelujah,
And you'll sing hallelujah,
And we'll all sing hallelujah
When we arrive at home.

Give joy or grief, give ease or pain,
Take life or friends away.
But let me find them all again
In that eternal day.

(Freeman Wootten singing the hymn "Sweet is the day of sacred rest," the text used with the Sacred Harp tune "Primrose," p. 47)
Sweet is the day of sacred rest.
No mortal care shall seize my breast.
O may my heart in tune be found
Like David's harp of solemn sound.

 




Notes

(1) The Sacred Harp is a shape-note tunebook, first compiled for singing instruction and congregational singing in 1844 in Hamilton, Georgia. It has been kept in continuous active use since that time by generations of devoted singers.
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(2) In Sacred Harp tradition, the extrended family has always served as an important base of support. In part this is because large families can provide loyalty, expertise, organizational energy, and continuity over successive generations. More importantly, family members share the kind of enduring emotional bonds that are valued in Sacred Harp singing. Jesse and Beulah Wootten instilled in their children a deep love for Sacred Harp, which was integrated into family gatherings and inscribed in family identity.
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(3) "Corinth" - Sacred Harp, p. 32
Poetry: Joseph Grieg, 175
Music: John Massengale, arr. 1844

Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days.

Ashamed of Jesus! Just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon;
'Tis midnight with my soul till He,
Bright morning star, bids darkness flee.

Ashamed of Jesus, sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star,
He shed the beams of light divine
O'er this benighted soul of mine.

Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heav'n depend!
No, when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.

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(4) Singing schools are traditional music instruction classes taught by experienced singers such as Terry Wootten. They have a lengthy association with with shape-note tunebooks, and before that with the itinerant singing masters of eighteenth century New England.
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(5) Shape notes are a form of music notation designed to facilitate vocal music instruction. In this system, each degree of the musical scale is assigned a corresponding shape and name. Their introduction into American musical culture is usually attributed to the tunebook The Easy Instructor, compiled around 1800. Although shape notes were widely used in singing schools, they were ultimately not adopted by prominent music education institutions such as churches, music academies, and public schools.
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(6) "Fairfield" (page 29)
Poetry: Edmund Jones, 1750
Music: Hitchcock

Come, humble sinner, in whose breast
A thousand tho'ts revolve,
Come with guilt and fear oppressed,
And make this last resolve.

I'll go to Jesus, though my sin
Hath like a mountain rose;
I know his courts I'll enter in,
Whatever may oppose.

I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away, I know
I must forever die.

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(7) The Sacred Harp uses four shapes to represent the musical scale. Thus to sing the seven-tone diatonic scale, three of the shapes are repeated — "fa-sol-la-fa-sol-la-mi-fa." Other shape note tunebooks use seven shapes, the most well-known being "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do."
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(8) This song is printed in the "Rudiments of Music" section of the book. It is considered a "singing exercise" and is more often sung in singing schools than in singings.

When converts first begin to sing,
Wonder, wonder, wonder,
Their happy souls are on the wing,
Wonder, wonder, wonder,
Their theme is all redeeming love,
Wonder, wonder, wonder,
Fain would they be with Christ above,
Wonder, wonder, wonder.

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(9) The practice of "beating time" has special meaning in Sacred Harp tradition. Terry Wootten has the whole singing school class beat time — move their hand up and down to mark the rhythm. Its purpose is ostensibly to establish the tempo while leading, but in practice many singers beat time from their seats as an aid in following the music, as a part of traditional practice, and as a part of the physical experience of the music. Like much about fasola singing, these practices have pedagogical origins, but far exceed that function in traditional practice.
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(10) "Florida" (page 203)
Poetry: Isaac Watts, 1719
Music: Truman S. Wetmore, 1803

Let sinners take their course,
And choose the road to death;
But in the worship of my God,
I'll spend my daily breath.

My thoughts address His throne,
When morning brings the light;
I seek his blessings every noon,
And pay my vows at night.

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(11) The Wootten singing is held each year, on the second Sunday in April, at Antioch Baptist Church near Ider, Alabama. Known most often by the name of the church, "Antioch," the singing attracts singers from across the nation, drawn by the certainty of good singing, sincerity of spirit, and top-notch hospitality that the Woottens provide.
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(12) The preeminent venue for Sacred Harp singing is the "all-day singing," an annual event organized most often by a church, a family, or a singing community. Singings run from midmorning to midafternoon and are loosely managed by a set of elected officers. There are several singings on each Saturday or Sunday of the year, many in the traditional Sacred Harp areas of the southern U.S.
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(13) "Liverpool" (page 37)
Poetry: Hall's New Collection, 1823
Music: M. C. H. Davis, 1835

Young people all attention give
And hear what I shall say,
I wish your souls in Christ to live,
In everlasting day.

Remember you are hastening on,
To death's dark gloomy shade,
Your joys on earth will soon be gone,
Your flesh in dust be laid.

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(14) In Sacred Harp tradition, singers are seated in an arrangement called a "hollow square." In this, the leader stands in the center, flanked by the four singing parts — tenor or lead, treble, alto, and bass. In a church or other rectangular building, the pew area where the congregation enters is customarily the tenor section — so that visitors are seated where they can sing and hear the melody of the songs. Although some come to listen and sit in the back of the tenor section, there is no discernible audience nor is Sacred Harp singing discernibly a performance.
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(15) "Primrose" (page 47)
Poetry: Charles Wesley, 1763
Music: Ananias Davisson, 1816

Salvation, O the joyful sound!
'Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound
A cordial for our fears.

Buried in sorrow and in sin,
At hell's dark door we lay;
But we arise by grace divine
To see a heavenly day.

Salvation! Let the echo fly
The spacious earth around;
While all the armies in the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.

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(16) "Devotion" (page 48)
Poetry: Isaac Watts, 1719
Music: Alexander Johnson, 1818

Sweet is the day of sacred rest;
No mortal care shall seize my breast;
O may my heart in tune be found
Like David's harp of solemn sound.

Then shall I share a glorious part
When grace hath well refined my heart,
And fresh supplies of joy are shed,
Like holy oil, to cheer my head.

Then shall I see and hear and know
All I desired and wished below;
And ev'ry power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.

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(17) At noon, singers adjourn to a meeting room or outdoors where a lavish feast, sometimes of unimaginable abundance, will have mysteriously appeared. This is the traditional dinner-on-the-grounds (sometimes dinner-on-the-ground) prepared by local singers, church members, or other supporters of the singing.
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(18) In Sacred Harp tradition, the role of the song leader is perplexingly simple. Long ago, song leaders were the community's musical experts and led a "lesson" of several songs-meant in part as a period of musical instruction. In recent years everyone is implored to lead, even rank beginners, and are aided by veteran singers on the front bench who take control at the slightest hint of uncertainty.
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(19) "Sherburne" (page 186)
Poetry: anonymous
Music: Daniel Read, 1783

While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around.

All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace,
Good will hence forth from heav'n to men
Begin and never cease.

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(20) The fuguing tune is a distinctive style of composition that rose to popularity during the late-eighteenth century "golden age" of New England singing schools. The form was championed by the generation of composers that included William Billings, Daniel Read, Justin Morgan, and Jeremiah Ingalls. Later, tunes from these composers comprised part of the common stock of nineteenth century tunebooks. Following a short passage sung together, the distinctive feature of the fugue involves the cascading entry of voices. Fugues are considered more difficult to sing and to lead than other songs and thus are sometimes associated with accomplished leaders such as Barrett Ashley. In the film, "Sherburne" and "Florida" are examples of fugues.
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(21) "Wondrous Love" (page 159)
Poetry: from Dupuy's Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1811
Music: attributed to James Christopher, 1840

What wondrous love is this!
oh, my soul! oh, my soul!
What wondrous love is this!
oh, my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul.
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(22) In the singing community, there is a repository of accumulated fondness for fellow singers. Singers are quick to note that it is in fact a consequence of fellowship — a word singers use, both as a noun and a verb, to describe the particular manner of social and religious discourse that prevails at Sacred Harp singings. It is through fellowship that Sacred Harp music receives its personal meaning — the application of its principles to the community of singers. What makes Sacred Harp singing distinctive, says Philip Wootten, echoing a widespread sentiment, is that each and every singer comes to fellowship. "If you couldn't have fellowship with your brothers," he says, "then singing wouldn't last long. It would die out, it would be dead in a short period of time."
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(23) There is a period at the end of a singing where singers are invited to make announcements of upcoming events. As the camera follows several announcements, one readily notes the vast geographic extent of the class at the Antioch singing. Appeals are made for singers to come to events as far away as Chicago and Colorado. If smaller annual singings are local in scope, the larger ones routinely attract singers from great distances. Today, some very good singings are held outside the South. In their musical proficiency and even in their sincerity of spirit, some of these have approached the level of regard granted the best traditional singings. But the deep connection to locality, family, and religious tradition that has undergirded the century-long embrace in the Wootten family will be long in coming in these new areas.
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(24) Sand Mountain is the area of northeast Alabama where Thomas and Rhoda Haynes settled during the nineteenth century. Many of their descendants, including those from the Wootten branch, still live in the area. Northeast Alabama is one of the areas where Sacred Harp singing is long established.
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(25) "Hallelujah" (page 146)
Poetry: Charles Wesley, 1759
Music: William Walker, 1835

And let this feeble body fail,
And let it faint or die;
My soul shall quit this mournful vale,
And soar to worlds on high,
And I'll sing hallelujah, and you'll sing hallelujah,
And we'll all sing hallelujah, when we arrive at home.

Give joy or grief, give ease or pain,
Take life or friends away,
But let me find them all again,
In that eternal day.
And I'll sing hallelujah, and you'll sing hallelujah,
And we'll all sing hallelujah, when we arrive at home.

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(26) Campmeetings were large evangelical religious gatherings popular in the American frontier areas during the early nineteenth century — the same period that shape note tunebooks rose to prominence. Characterized by lay preaching, free will conversion, and emotional involvement, campmeetings were pivotal in freeing frontier religion from the constraints of established churches. Their size was extraordinary: relative to the sparse population density of the time they would exceed even the largest public events today.
The music of the revivals was characterized by the campmeeting refrain — an easily-memorized repeated phrase usually with evocative content. "And I'll sing hallelujah" was a stock phrase of campmeeting refrains. Such a form was well-suited to the spontaneity and emotional fervor of the events, the illiteracy of the participants, and the lack of printed materials available.
Eager to promote their books, shape-note book compilers incorporated popular campmeeting songs, arranged in shape notes and harmonized according to the style of the time. In the film, "Hallelujah" is an example of a campmeeting song.
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(27) "O Jesus, my Saviour, I know thou art mine"
Lloyd's Primitive Hymns, #109

O Jesus, my Saviour, I know thou art mine,
For thee all plesaures of sin I resign:
Of objects most pleasing I love thee the best;
Without thee I'm wretched, but with thee I'm blest.

I find him in singing, I find him in prayer;
In sweet meditation he always is near,
My constant companion, O may we ne'er part;
All glory to Jesus, he dwells in my heart.

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(28) Lloyd's Primitive Hymns is a hymn book compiled by Benjamin Lloyd of Coosa County, Alabama, and first published in 1841 for the Primitive Baptist church. Hymn books, which are collections of religious poetry presented without music, derive from an era before tunebooks, which, like The Sacred Harp, contain printed music.
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(29) The "cousins' singing" is the name given to the informal singing that Wootten family members have held on occasion. In the film, we see scenes from the singing organized by Terry and Sheila and held in their house.
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(30) "Precious Memories" is an example of a gospel song, a musical style that emerged during the late-nineteenth-century evangelical movement. Its most distinctive musical feature was the use of "modern" harmony, then consisting of key modulations using accidentals. These techniques were rejected by many Sacred Harp singers, helping to instill in Sacred Harp a deep loyalty to the antiquarian "old paths" of music tradition.

"Precious Memories"
Poetry and Music: J. B. F. Wright, 1925

Precious mem'ries, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred past unfold.

Precious mem'ries, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

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(31) "Morning" (page 163)
Poetry: Isaac Watts, 1709
Music: Amos Pilsbury, 1799

He dies, the friend of sinners dies,
Lo, Salem's daughters weep around;
A solemn darkness veils the skies,
A sudden trembling shakes the ground.

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(32) "Just As I Am"
Poetry: William Batchelder Bradbury
Music: Charlotte Elliot
From The Sacred Harp, Cooper Revision.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O lamb of God, I come, I come!

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(33) "Love At Home"
Poetry and music: Joseph Hugh McNaughton
From The Sacred Harp, Cooper Revision.

There is beauty all around
When there's love at home;
There is joy in every sound
When there's love at home.
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on every side,
Time doth softly, sweetly glide,
When there's love at home.

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(34) An early-twentieth-century revision of The Sacred Harp was the 1902 Cooper Revision, by W. M. Cooper of Dothan, Alabama. This edition took a progressive slant, both in style and content. Cooper included some gospel music, closer harmony, and added alto parts to many three-part songs. While this appealed to the tastes of the day, it inspired a reactionary movement among some Sacred Harp singers that led to the more conservative James Revision of 1911.
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(35) The Haynes family reunion has been held annually since 1896. According to family members, Thomas and Rhoda Haynes attended that first reunion and are still prominent in the hearts and minds of those who attend today. Sacred Harp singing has long played an important role in the event.
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(36) "Sweet By and By"
Poetry: S. Filmore Bennet, 1867
Music: Joseph P. Webster, 1867
From The Sacred Harp, Cooper Revision.

There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it a-far,
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore

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(37) The song "Wells" is sometimes sung very slowly — as it is here — in memory of beloved singers or family members who have passed on.

"Wells" (page 28)
Poetry: Isaac Watts, 1719
Music: Israel Holdroyd, 1724

Life is the time to serve the Lord,
A time to insure the great reward;
And while the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.

Life is the hour that God has giv'n
To escape hell and fly to heav'n;
The day of grace, and mortals may
Secure the blessing of the day.

The living know that they must die,
But all the dead forgotten lie;
Their mem'ry and their sense is gone,
Alike unknowing and unknown.

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(38) Freeman describes Beulah as a "shoutin' woman," meaning that she was not ashamed or embarrassed to express herself in church when she felt the presence of the holy spirit.
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(39) An association meeting is a gathering of members of the various churches in a church association, an organizational unit common among Baptists churches. Associationism was an important concept of church polity developed by Baptists during the early nineteenth century. Its goal was to provide for organization and sharing of resources (e.g., circuit preachers) among like-minded churches without sacrificing their independence — which Baptists then thought unassailable. Periodically, associations would hold large meetings that drew from all the member churches.
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(40) As the singing at the reunion ends, the singers "take the parting hand" as a farewell embrace, much as they would have after Postell's sermon. As is the custom at many Sacred Harp singings, they close with the song "Parting Hand," in this case following immediately with a verse from "Hallelujah." This parting ritual marks the dispersal of the singing family. It follows the closing prayer, a prayer which implores that singers arrive safely at their various residences. The end of a singing is a time of impending absence — from one's fellow singers and from the vivid spiritual presence that is Sacred Harp

"Parting Hand" (page 62)
Poetry: John Blain, 1818
Music: arr. by William Walker, 1835

How sweet the hours have passed away
Since we have met to sing and pray.
How loath we are to leave the place
O could I stay with friends so kind,
O would it cheer my drooping mind!
But duty makes me understand
That we must take the parting hand.

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