We enjoyed going to the Sacred Harp National Convention in Birmingham, Alabama, for our Date Day this last Friday. This was the third year we've gone to it, and it's been a treat each time.
I'm not a good judge of numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were several hundred people singing, plus lots of others like us who were there just to listen. The church was full, and it's a good size church. We do bring our song book that I bought after that first year, but they have loaner copies for anyone who wants to follow along as they sing.
Some people who go to the "sangin's" are interested in it as a Folk Art, but many, as we do, consider it a way to sing praises to God and connect to our church roots. The lyrics show just how different people's attitudes toward God, heaven, and death were back in the 1800's, when most of the songs were written. Most of the tunes are variations of English songs brought over by the original European settlers in the South. Many of the arrangements have a haunting sound to them, because a lot of them are set in a minor key.
Personally, I like the slower more majestic songs the best, but there are plenty of Rounds and fast tempo songs for those who like their music peppy.
The offering plate is always passed around a couple of times during the service, and we come prepared to give generously, as they provide a very good communal meal in the church's gymnasium/fellowship hall. We chatted with one lady from the UK, a couple from Texas, and a gentleman from Huntsville, Alabama during lunch. They were all singers and very active in the Sacred Harp movement.
There's no way to put into words the worship I always experience in listening to such beautiful music sung to God's Glory. And I know we'll be there next year, too, if at all possible.