163rd Sacred Harp Singing Convention comes to Henderson

Rod Ivey sings a song from the Sacred Harp on August 8, 2015, during the 160th East Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention at the Henderson Civic Center.

From staff reports

The 163rd East Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention is set 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Henderson Civic Center.

It is the old singing convention in Texas, according to the Handbook of Texas.

“The convention is the second-oldest continuous singing convention in the United States,” said convention chairman Sam Craig. “Singers founded it in 1855 as the East Texas Musical Convention. Young and old keep the tradition of Sacred Harp singing alive annually in Henderson.”

Craig said convention coordinators expect 300 to 400 people to attend the event.

Songs come from a book called “The Sacred Harp,” first published in 1844. The book contains 611 mostly religious songs, written with the sight-singing aid of four geometrically shaped notes.

In the late 1700s in America, the shaped-note system was adapted as a method for teaching the masses how to sing, Craig said. Each shape represents an Old English syllable of the musical scale.

Singing is a cappella, and often the vocal chords and the human voice in full four-part harmony are considered the “harp” of Sacred Harp singing, according to Craig.

Singers travel from across Texas and throughout the United States, he said.

Each day has morning and afternoon breaks with an hour break for lunch as well as a social at 6 p.m. Saturday. Donations are accepted, but admission is free.

For information, call (903) 863-5379 or (903) 889-3344.

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