Academic journal article The Hymn

Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp

Academic journal article The Hymn

Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp

Article excerpt

Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp

A film by Matt and Erica Hinton. Atlanta, GA: Awake Productions, 2006. DVD (1 hour, 15 minutes). U. S. $20.00. [further information and orders: www.awakemysoul.com].

For one who wants to know about Sacred Harp singing, the best introduction is to attend an actual singing. In place of an actual singing, the next best choice is this film. Awake, My Soul is the first feature documentary about Sacred Harp singing. Seven years coming to fruition, the seed for this project originated in Erica's documentary film class at Georgia State University where she and Matt Hinton met and along the way married and had a baby girl, Anna.

The balance of this documentary is especially impressive. Short narration followed by a stanza or less of singing, brief testimonies from Sacred Harp singers, and bits of history going as far back as Guido d'Arezzo in the Middle Ages provide variety and balance that maintain the viewer's interest. The story flows logically from one aspect of this tradition to another. The seventeen singers describing this tradition include a past President of The Hymn Society, William J. Reynolds, F.H.S., of Nashville. The oldest of the traditional singers contributing to the narrative is Raymond C. Hamrick of Macon, Georgia, now in his nineties, composer of several widely sung tunes in this tradition.

This documentary clearly emphasizes that Sacred Harp is singers' music, not a performance for an audience. It is described as a type of communal artistic creation, something non-existent in most people's lives in our time. Through this documentary, viewers visit some of the important churches of the South where this tradition is very much alive, such as the Shoal Creek Church in Alabama's Talladega National Forest, the Liberty Church on Sand Mountain, Alabama, and Holly Springs Church near Bremen, Georgia. …

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