Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman talks about one of the oldest and most distinctive musical traditions in Texas.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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On April 28, 1900, the South Union Singing Convention first met at the Round Top schoolhouse in Caldwell County, Texas. Later renamed the Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention, the group performs sacred harp, or shape note, singing. Popular throughout the American South, sacred harp singing derives from Benjamin White and Elisha King’s hymnal the Sacred Harp, published in 1844. Singers perform a cappella facing each other in a large square and use hymn books which contain specially shaped symbols to represent notes.
The Southwest Texas Sacred Singing Harp Convention continues to perform regularly, helping to preserve this unique musical tradition.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we meet a singer who was itching to make it in the music business.