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Important contributors to the world of Sacred Harp singing

Adapted from the Information page  of the "Awake, My Soul" website, with additions


William Billings (1746-1800) - Billings, who lived during the American Revolution, is noteworthy as the first published American composer. He lived and worked as a tanner in Boston, and, following the tradition of choral singing that dates to the Country Parish music of early 18th century England, taught singing schools across New England although he was evidently untrained in music himself. That tradition quickly took hold following the publication of William Billings' New England Psalm Singer with the aim of teaching young people sacred songs. They adopted the "shape note" method of teaching music, first introduced in 1801 with the publication of The Easy Instructor by William Smith and William Little.

Two of Billings's primary publications were The Singing Masters' Assistant and The Continental Harmony. Much of his music was preserved in the various shape note songbook collections of the 19th century.

William Walker (1809 -1875) - Walker and B.F. White (Compiler of the Sacred Harp) were brothers-in-law by marriage, having married Amy and Thurza Golighty respectively. Walker was also active in music in the Spartanburg, SC area. He published The Southern Harmony in 1835. The legend in the Sacred Harp tradition is that Walker and White were great friends and both contributed equally to the Southern Harmony compilation, however, when Walker took the manuscript to Philadelphia, it included only his name. Supposedly, the two never spoke again. Walker would continue to be an active teacher of music. Following the War between the States, he would publish The Christian Harmony, a seven shape songbook, still in use in sections of the deep south.
B. F. White - Benjamin Franklin White was born in 1800 near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He served in the war of 1812 playing the fife. He moved to Hamilton, Harris County, GA in 1842. where he would soon meet a young man, E.J. King. Together, they published the 1st edition of The Sacred Harp in 1844. Unfortunately, King died shortly after the book came out. B.F. White continued to be active in the growing Sacred Harp community. He was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Musical Convention in 1845, and this idea of holding singing conventions would be an important means by which interest in the Sacred Harp would be generated. During the 1850's The Southern Musical Convention would publish the newspaper The Organ, which would contain new shape note tunes that were being written. He would serve as mayor of Hamilton, GA in 1865, and moved to the Atlanta area following the War between the States. White continued to be active in maintaining the interest of The Sacred Harp with new editions being published in 1850 and 1859, and a revision in 1869, until he died in 1879 after sustaining injuries from a fall on Spring Street in Atlanta. White is buried in the historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. 27 songs published in the current edition of The Sacred Harp were written or arranged by White.
E.J. King - Little is known about Elisha King. He was the son of a plantation owner in central, western Georgia. It is generally accepted that he provided much of the financial support for the publication of The Sacred Harp in 1844. He died before any formal singing occurred from the songbook while he was still quite young. Over 20 of the songs published in the current edition of The Sacred Harp are attributed to King.

This Web Site has been set up for the United Kingdom Sacred Harp and Shapenote Community to provide a resource centre for singing in the United Kingdom. 

Any correspondence, helpful suggestions and contributions as to content, amendments, additions and new web links should be sent to Edwin and Sheila Macadam at .  All material copyright 2000-2015.