Pearl River South Singing Convention members at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Tylertown, MS, November 28, 1999. Photo: Patrick Snook
Pearl River South Singing Convention
This event brings together singers from four
African-American churches in southern Mississippi's rural Marion
and Walthall Counties. Founded in 1916, the convention membership
meets three times a year for singing practice, worship, and
fellowship. Unaccompanied gospel singing using shape note notation,
also known as Sacred Harp or
fa-so-la, is traditional
among black and white Mississippi congregations, but individual
styles and musical arrangements vary from one church to another.
Shape note singing has its origins in a blend of two diverse
streams of music: the urban gospel songs of the late 19th century
revival and the choral folk music of the southern states.
Shape note singing as practiced by the Pearl River
South Singing Convention uses a notation system of seven geometric
shapes, each identified by a syllable ( do, re, mi, fa, so, la,
ti) representing a musical note. The convention still sings
unaccompanied by the piano as it did when it was founded, singing
instead "by the counts and the beats," because the music dates to a
time before most rural churches had pianos. The Pearl River South
singers work hard to carry on their community's tradition of shape
note signing so that "the Lord will get the glory."
Documentation of the convention, produced by the Pine
Hills Culture Program, includes three audiotapes from the November
1999 session, a seven-page written report, ten black-and-white
photographs, a program from the June 1999 session, the sheet music
for "Lord, I Want To Be Ready," and a map of the area of rural
Marion and Walthall Counties that is home to the convention.
Originally submitted by: Ronnie Shows, Representative (4th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.