Daily New article 1988 re sacred harp music
Shaped Note (Singing)    

learn the shape of the notesIn the late 1870s, a normal school was founded to teach a  system based on a seven-shaped musical note scale (known today as shaped notes).  This made it possible for everyone to learn to follow the musical score and sing -  even if they couldn't read.  It also provided a completely different style of harmony and distinct sound.  The songs representing the Christian life and worship were sung mostly at community gatherings --in churches, outside, or in large auditoriums. These events were at the heart of social engagement and entertainment for communities in our area in the early years. See The Heritage of Okaloosa County, FL. Volume II for a more detailed history of this music.


Sacred Harp
Sacree Harp hymnal
Sung in churches this group singing was also known as "FA SO LA".  Each of the musical notes on the scale had a name - "doe, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, doe" a song leader gave the pitch or key the song was
to be sung in - often using a tuning fork which was tapped against a hard surface. The leader then 
sounded out the sopranos, the altos, tenors and base singers their first note of the song.  Particiants sounded out the notes of the song ("fa, so so, so, fa, so") and then sang using the words instead of the note names. Songs were sung a capella. During the songs some voices stand out above others (to adjust their pitch and keep the tempo as the group sounded out their harmonies). See the Sacred Harp Hymnals in the museum's exhibit  room.  This type singing was featured in the movie,
 "Cold Mountain". 
                                                                                                                                          
Convention Singing

Convention Singing began in the churches and was an outgrowth of the Sacred Harp tradition.  However, singers were usually accompanied by piano or guitar. Everyone sang from a particular song book.  There were several series of these books. Each participant bought or brought their own songbook.  It is also known as Stamps-Baxter singing. The Stamps-Baxter Publishing Company sold the little paperback stamps baxter publicationbooks by mail order. (usually priced under fifty-cents, each, they were affordable for groups to purchase and use at all locations.) Most often these 'singings' were combined with dinner-on-the-grounds - preaching in the morning, then lunch, then afternoon singing.  Eating at the church lessened the travel time and provided time to socialize and visit. As a rule, most locations selected a particular Sunday of the month to have a singing, eg., 3rd Sunday singing at Antioch; 2nd Sunday singing at Crowder. This way they didn't need to keep posting individual dates.  Folks already knew when and where. 

"Singing Schools" were conducted -  by a gifted musician in the community or a curcuit rider from one of the publishing companies - in the various communities. Both children and adults attended and the schools were usually held during the summer - avoiding  the planting and harvesting seasons when folks were too busy  to attend.  They learned how to read the music, how to keep time, how to determine the notes and their sound.


Quartet Music

An outgrowth of convention singing were the popular quartet groups which sprang up throughout the country -    the Happy Goodmans, The Blackwood Brothers, The Stamps Quartet, The Dixie Echos, The Florida Boys and many more. The groups traveled from town to town performing together in auditorium and church sanctuaries - any building that had a stage and large amount of seating.  There was a small admission fee and many of the quartets sold their sheet music and records.  On occasion a larger town held an "All Night Singing" - guartets tooktheir turns on stage singing from 8:00 pm to midnight.  One particularily popular All Night Sing was held, annually, at Bonifay, FL.  It was outdoors in an open field.  A flat bed truck served as a stage.  People from all over the Florida panhandle and south Alabama attended.  Many brought lawn chairs and blankets - the children could play and sleep on the blanket spread in front of the lawn chairs where the adults sat and enjoyed the music.  Unlike its 'cousin' convention singing, quartet music was performance oriented and it became a very good business for many.  Most quartets had their own particular sound and various Christian life message-songs. There was the Singing Cloud Family (they were Native American and sometime the lead singer wore his headdress); The Blackwood Brothers had smooth, like-colored suits and tie.  Other pGospelaires quartetersonalities you might recognize were:  Hovie Lister, Jake Hess, Dottie Rambo, J.G. Whitfield, The Spear Family and the Oak Ridge Boys (pre-country music vintage), Martha Carson and others.                                                                

Country Music.  1940s & 1950s 

The Florida Boys QuartetKnown for its lyrics of hard times, hard living and difficult relationships,  these traveling singers came as soloists, groups and instruementalists. To name only a few:  Chet Atkins, "Little Jimmy" Dickins, "Minnie Pearl," Eddie Arnold, sang their tunes and told jokes at the Nashville, TN. 
Grand Ole' Opry.  Folks throughout the southeast could listen in over WCKY radio on Saturday nights.


 
    

 




Smil-a-while QuartetLeFerver TrioJake Hess



Baker Block Museum. Corner Rt 4 & Hwy 189, Baker, FL. (850)537-5714