Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Happy Sailor - variant of Old Ship of Zion in the Sacred Harp

Sacred Harp 388 The Happy Sailor Coker UMC Hour 3 San Antonio Texas 1991 Denison Revision.mp4


Excerpt from introduction to National Sacred Harp Convention CD by John Bealle - ©2003 by the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture,

4 - “The Happy Sailor” (388)
Seth Holloway, Nashville TN
C. J. Griggs (1911) | Arr. B. F. White (1859)
Seth Holloway is in the music business in Nashville and was chair of the Young People’s Convention when the singing was hosted in that city. He is descended through his mother Sarah Smith from the singing Beasley family of Marion County, Alabama. His uncle Joe Beasley (1929-1995) made some important recordings of Sacred Harp beginning during the 1950s that were recently released on compact disk. Beasley moved from Alabama to New York City and was a pivotal figure in the Sacred Harp revival there during the years before his death in 1995. In Beasley’s honor, a scholarship fund has been established that is awarded to young Sacred Harp singers to help with college expenses. Benjamin Franklin White (1800-1879) was the chief compiler of The Sacred Harp. In 1842 he moved his family from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Harris County, Georgia. It was there that White, having contributed in some now-unknown capacity to William Walker’s Southern Harmony, set about to compile his own book. Along with The Sacred Harp, his chief contribution to religious song was the founding of the Southern Musical Convention (1845), thereby setting in motion
the practice of democratically-organized singing conventions that has endured continuously since then. The tune of this song was arranged by B. F. White for the 1859 edition of The Sacred Harp; singer C. J. Griggs of Atlanta contributed the second and third verses. Griggs was a steadfast supporter of old sacred songs through the period when many turned to gospel music, and served J. S. James as assistant president of the United Convention in its early years. According to James,
the author of the original verse of the text is unknown. Both text and tune have circulated widely in variants under the title “The Old Ship of Zion,” notably as an African-American spiritual. As a spiritual, the most famous printed setting is surely the transcription by Lucy McKim in the book Slave Songs of the United States (1867), pp. 102-3. See: Jackson, Spiritual Folksongs, song #210. Information on C. J. Griggs is from the 1911 James footnote to “The Happy Sailor.”

Listing on the CD in list of recent SH recordings on Warren Steel's website at "Traditional Musics of Alabama, Vol. 3: 2002 National Sacred Harp Singing Convention." This professionally produced CD recording contains 32 songs sung by the very large class at the 23rd National Sacred Harp Convention on June 14, 2002 in Birmingham, AL. It was recorded, produced, and digitally mastered by Steve Grauberger of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture. Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of this recording is the 30-page liner booklet written by historian and Sacred Harp authority John Bealle, who attended some of the early National Conventions, along with numerous photos taken by Steve Grauberger. The notes feature an authoritative essay on the history of the National Convention and a track list which provides impressively detailed information about the author of each text and the composer and history of each tune, as well as some information about the song leaders. The liner notes can be downloaded from the Internet as a pdf file. The price of the CD is $12.50 per CD plus $2.50 shipping per order. Order online or by phone at 334-242-3601.

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