Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Wallace C. McKenzie, Jr.

Second Advisor

Robert Grayson


In 1994 the Sacred Harp, a southern, shape-note tunebook, entered its 150th year of continuous use. First compiled in 1844 by B. F. White and E. J. King, and updated numerous times, The Sacred Harp books in the "Denson" tradition, including The Sacred Harp: 1991 Edition, are today the most popular and widely used twentieth-century revisions of any nineteenth-century tunebook. Sacred Harp singing has been a largely rural, Southern tradition and in the years between 1844 and the early 1970s several hundred separate singings were founded, many of which continue to be active. In the early 1990s the Sacred Harp tradition, with approximately 175 annual singings, remains largely rural. While some recent scholarship acknowledges a few urban singings founded during the middle 1970s, including several in the South, documentation of organized urban activity has been lacking. Analysis of data, including founding dates of singings derived from the Directory and Minutes of Sacred Harp Singing, 1991-1992, has confirmed a trend towards an increase in the number of new singings being founded, with the majority being founded in urban areas in the North; since 1990, most of the new singings have been founded in urban areas in the Midwest or West. Through the use of methods of social investigation, including informal interviews, surveys and field recordings, and drawing on the historical perspective of the various revisions of The Sacred Harp, the present study further documents the geographic spread of singings in the North, especially the Midwest, and to a lesser degree in other regions outside the South, identifies forces active in the proliferation of urban/urbanized singings, explores the relationship between the spread of Sacred Harp singing in the urban north and the twentieth-century revival of folk music, and further identifies what type of person practices Sacred Harp singing in Northern urban areas.