Singing Conventions and scholarship

Speaking of the singing convention tradition and Gaither, as I did in passing below, allow me to engage a little shameless self-promotion and mention this conference - Farther Along, a conference on southern gospel singing conventions - that Middle Tennessee State University is hosting in the spring of 08.

I’ll be presenting a paper titled “The Gaitherization of Convention Singing.” It’s part of a larger study of Gaither’s impact on sg that I’m working on, and I’m delighted to find a venue like this conference to test drive some of my ideas on the issue. This conference is especially interesting for the way it merges scholarly study with reflections on questions of praxis and methods from working artists in the field. Thus there are straightahead pieces of scholarship like mine and one, for instance, on ma and pa publishing, alongside a presentation by sg pianist extraordinaire Tracey Phillips on, naturally, the art of convention playing followed by a roundtable with convention style players.

I pass all this along fwiw. Slowly, it seems southern gospel music and culture is beginning to be taken seriously as object of scholarly study - and not a moment too soon.

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  1. Amanda wrote:

    Very cool! MTSU is my alma mater. I have to find more information on this conference!

  2. RR wrote:

    I’m curious - how many of us have been to a real singing convention? And in what state(s)?

  3. Shawn wrote:

    Hello! I’m also presenting at this conference on the history of the Speer Family and the influence they had on both southern gospel and more specifically, convention music. Looking forward to meeting you.

  4. RF wrote:

    I have. Every second Sunday at one of the local Baptist churches. Group singing and then the quartets. All in my youth. You should ahve heard them sing “Farther Along”, and all the favorite convention songs with all the intricate movements. A joy to behold. That was 30 years ago.

    It still exists today. Where once there were full churches, hnow they’re only about half full, but no matter. The tradition lives on in rural areas all over America.

  5. RF wrote:

    Oops. RR. The state was West Virginia. Greenbrier County to be exact.

  6. CVH wrote:

    First, congratulations on being a presenter.

    RR, I was at one convention that Ben Speer led (in the time when the Speer Family was in the Brock, Sue Chenault, Bob and Jeanie Johnson, Harold Lane configuration) and it was a slice of life like no other. Entertaining, inspiring, humorous and filled with simple sincerity.

    If they do podcasts or a DVD of the sessions I’d love to know.

  7. Grigs wrote:

    Shawn, that sounds like an interesting presentation. When I was a teenager I read an biography of the Speers, I think it was titled “Let The Song Go On” or something like that. I’d always liked their music, but developed a great deal of respect for them after learning about their history.

  8. joe wrote:

    I’ve been to the singing conventions. They used to have them one Sunday afternoon a month in the Missouri bootheel, rotating from church to church. Such “precious memories” of those days back in the 60’s!

    CVH, that configuration of the Speers was my very favorite. What a sound!

  9. AD wrote:

    RR, I grew up in singing conventions in Mississippi!

  10. pr wrote:

    The singing convention/singing school tradition is definitely still alive and well, though perhaps shrinking somewhat in scope. For those looking for conventions to attend, there is a website - that lists a lot of the larger singings in various states as well as information on the newest convention books from the publishers and some of the singing schools that are still being held.

    I think it’s very exciting that the art and traditions of singing conventions are being celebrated through an academic conference.

  11. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    As one of the organizers of the “Farther Along” conference, I’m happy to invite you all to attend. You might like to check out the website for it, which includes the program:

  12. Grover Baker wrote:

    The preliminary program, additional details, and registration information are available at the conference website:

    Thanks for the plug!

  13. Delton Frost wrote:

    I grew up with singing schools and singing conventions in and around Scottsville, Ky.
    I am very sad to report that we do not have those types in today’s culture. We sang from the Stamps-Baxter, Vaughn, and Stamps Quartet semi-annual convention song books. My, how the glory did roll! My parents would attend a singing every Sunday afternoon. Twice a year would be the Singing Convention in Allen County, Kentucky. In addition to the class singing there would be a guest quartet such as, Statesmen, Blackwoods, Harmoneers, etc. Oh, for the good old days of the gospel in song.

  14. brad wrote:

    i have a 13 year old son who recorded his 1st cd last year and would love for him to go to singing school. Ive tried several local
    music teachers at the local college with no luck.

  15. B. L. Reid, D.Ph. wrote:

    To Brad,

    Where do you live? If in Tennessee, try the DoReMi Gospel Music Academy, (Lebanon), the Leoma School of Gospel Music, (Lawrence Co.) the Cumberland Valley School of Gospel Music. (Pulaski), Tri-City Gospel Music Camp, (Kingsport),or the new Southern Gospel Music School of America, (Chattanooga). All of these schools have websites. I teach in two, (Leoma and DoReMi), and we would enjoy having your son as a student.

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