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Flock Primitive Baptist, Barrineau Park, Florida, USA
Worshipper: Preacher's Kid.
Little Flock Primitive Baptist, Barrineau Park, Florida, USA.
Today's event was held under the auspices of the Sacred
Harp Musical Heritage Association.
A small clapboard chapel sitting in a grove of first-growth
live oak and evergreen trees beside a large community cemetery.
The church is not unlike many small Protestant churches throughout
the Deep South. Inside has been updated through the years. It
is air-conditioned and has a fellowship hall attached that is
even larger than the chapel. The seating is arranged in an open
square pattern to facilitate singing in the Sacred Harp tradition
that characterized today's service. Each row of seats has a
portable footrest to accommodate foot washing, which is also
a practice in Primitive Baptist Churches. The fellowship hall
has a fully-equipped kitchen and permanent dining tables with
an accordion door separating it from the main part of the church.
One certainly gets an impression that church dinners may be
almost as important as the services themselves!
Because of the nature of the gathering it was difficult to get
a feel for the church itself and its membership. However, the
beauty of the group, the maintenance of the buildings, and the
ambience itself would lead one to believe that a most hospitable
congregation worships here. The church is certainly a great
host: today's event has been occurring annually here for over
50 years with few breaks in time. The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage
Association serves as a clearinghouse and index of resources
for the Sacred Harp community, which is (as described on their
website) "a loosely knit society of people who love Sacred
Harp singing, [with] no central organization or authority."
Barrineau Park is an unincorporated community in Escambia County,
Florida, at the extreme western edge of the Florida panhandle
on the border with Alabama. It is a picturesque rural community
of low hills, farms, creeks and woods. It was named after William
Capers Barrineau of South Carolina, who moved there in 1900
and bought over 11,000 acres of land for turpentine and timber.
After the timber supply was exhausted, he brought in about 50
families, mostly German Hungarians, to farm the land in intensive
small truck farms that actively produced vegetables for the
market. Today Barrineau Park serves as a semi-rural bedroom
community for Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama.
Joe Nall, retiring chairman of the Association; Ryan Bowman,
The date & time:
September 7, 2013, from 9.30am until 2.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
Annual Shape Note Singing Convention. Shape
note singing, also known as fasola or Sacred Harp, is a
uniquely American musical tradition dating from the 19th century
that relies on four distinct shapes to aid singers in mastering
the notes to a hymn or song. Singers face each other in a square
formation and practice the melody using the syllables "fa
sol la" as opposed to the full complement of solfege syllables.
Shape note singing is characterized by a raw, earthy sound and
rich harmonies. Two songs in the shape note style were featured
in the motion picture Cold Mountain. (See the One Thing
Remembered question below for an example of how a well known
hymn is first sung "fasola" and then in the characteristic
sound of the style.) The Sacred Harp, a songbook first
published in 1844, introduced the concept of fasola to rural
congregations throughout the South. Today, the repertoire of
fasola includes psalm tunes, fuguing tunes, odes and anthems
by colonial and early American composers, settings of folk songs
and revival hymns, as well as many contemporary songs by living
How full was the building?
About 80 per cent. People were in attendance all the way from
Wetumpka, Alabama, some 20 miles northeast of Montgomery, and
Tallahassee, Florida, some 250 miles to the east.
Did anyone welcome you
Everyone who was acquainted greeted each other heartily, and everyone else was introduced immediately.
Each person brought their own song book unless, of course, they didnít own one. A supply was available for purchase.
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service
Convivial, friendly and casual.
What were the exact opening words of the
Joe Nall: "Everyone, let's have a prayer and get started."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Sacred Harp songbook.
What musical instruments were played?
No instruments are used for Sacred Harp singing.
Did anything distract you?
People ambled around, in and out, as they felt moved.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The entire session was devoted to the singing of shape note
music, interspersed with prayers and a memorial to members of
the group who had died since the last session in 2012.
Exactly how long was the
There was no sermon.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The singing. The musical experience is – or can be –
spiritually uplifting. It is wonderful to experience the way
in which one's ancestors may well have worshiped in the infancy
of this country. Three to four hours of historical music and
enthusiastic singing is an unmatched event.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The prayers did get a bit lengthy in that they were extemporaneous
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
What you would normally expect to happen after a service like
this, namely ...
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
... "Dinner on the grounds." Such dinners are a buffet
of everything good your grandmother or mother ever prepared:
the ever-present fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, cornbread,
biscuits, yeast rolls, turnip greens and collards, purple hull
peas, stuffed eggs, and on and on. The desert table fairly groaned:
pound cake, chocolate chip cake, pecan pie, Coca-Cola cake,
banana pudding, berry cobblers, along with sweet Southern iced
tea (as well as unsweetened), coffee and fruit juice. Everyone
sat down with everyone else and reacquainted themselves from
previous singings. They related stories, both happy and sad,
about those not present.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
N/A This was a once-a-year event and so would not be
a candidate for being a church home.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely! It certainly included "all kinds and conditions
of man" and almost all levels of musical sophistication.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The Appalachian song "Wondrous
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