2016 Singing School
The first annual Quay Smathers Memorial Singing School was a rip-roarin' success! The gallery begins with the preparations and ends with the final group picture - showing that all the hard work done by so many people was worth the effort. The video clips show just some of the fun we had that day. We think Quay would have approved!
Note: Photos are arranged in 4 separate slideshows,
Lynn Shaw makes the shapes out of foam core.
The foam core shapes were used to teach shape recognition and sight-singing in some fun group participation games.
Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw polished up her antique tuning fork collection, which contains a rare Seagrove's adjustable fork, for the School exhibit.
Vintage and rare shaped-note books were rounded up by Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw, June Smathers-Jolley and Zack Allen for displaying at the School.
Traditional singing school masters often used flannel boards for teaching shaped-notes. Lynn Shaw agreed to make one for the School.
Lynn Shaw's flannel board would have met with Quay's approval!
June Smathers-Jolley and Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw worked for months collecting archival photos of shaped-note singings, singers and historical figures. Special thanks to Morning Star UMC and the Canton Historical Museum, both in Canton, NC.
Each participant received a packet of instructional materials as well as historical information. And the handy little red card was a great "cheat sheet" for learning the shapes quickly!
June Smathers-Jolley was in charge of all of the hospitality arrangements which included beverages, snacks and desserts! She surprised everyone with her homemade shaped-note sugar cookies. Special thanks to Sheppard Insurance Group of Clyde, NC, the School's hospitality sponsor as well as Jacque Sue Brookshire, Quay's niece, for baking some amazing fruit and nut breads. Jacque Sue's daughter, Kathy Sheppard, is owner of Sheppard Insurance Group and Quay's great-niece. It was a family effort!
Elizabeth and Lynn Shaw drove 400 miles to help lead the singing school - their SUV was packed to the brim - including the dog!
The beautiful and historic Shook-Smathers House was the perfect location for the School, especially since Quay's great great grandmother lived there until her death in 1868. Participants enjoyed tours and singing in the third floor chapel where shaped-note singing was heard in the 19th century! Thanks to the Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society for providing the house for the School and doing so much work to make it a success!
One of the first tasks the day before the School was to set up the exhibit room which housed displays, vintage and rare books, photo albums and scrapbooks, a tuning fork collection and other items pertaining to Blue Ridge Mountain shaped-note singing.
June Smathers-Jolley stocks the fridge at the Shook-Smathers House with beverages, fruits, cheeses, quick breads and more in preparation for the School the next day. Everyone had to keep their energy up for all the singing!
This was waiting on participants when they arrived, along with coffee, hot tea and plenty of warm welcomes!
Quay's grandson, Emmy award winning filmmaker, Evan Shaw, documented the School. Clips of the day's activities can be found below.
The day was kicked off with a very informative talk by a direct descendant of American hymn composer, William Billings. Carol Litchfield, who is with the Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society, spoke about her famous ancestor and his contributions to American hymnody. Many Billings tunes can be found in shaped-note books.
Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw explained the history of shaped-note singing and used a chart made by Lynn Shaw to explain the 7-shaped systems that developed in America during the 19th century.
The flannel board worked great when everyone played name that tune as they figured out their part's first three measures of "New Britain" which most folks know as "Amazing Grace."
Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw demonstrates the pendulum as used in 18th and 19th century singing schools to set the tempo.
The School was filled to capacity with a waiting list. within 30 days of opening registration. The 2017 School is also expected to fill up quickly.
As a surprise to June Smathers-Jolley, the group sang Happy Birthday in shaped-notes.
A surprise birthday cake with shaped-notes was presented to June Smathers-Jolley before the lunch break.
Kudos to the local bakery for their great artistic work in accurately drawing the shapes in icing! It was probably one of the most unusual cake orders they have had.
Singing School teacher, Laura Boosinger, led a large group of trebles, most of whom are not pictured, in a section choir in one of the Shook-Smathers House's upstairs rooms. The acoustics in the house are wonderful!
Bass teacher, Larry Beveridge, took his students to the third floor chapel and made use of the old wooden benches.
June Smathers-Jolley, Lynn Shaw and Zack Allen (not pictured) worked with the lead singers in the front room of the Shook-Smathers House. The dining room served as the "exhibit hall" for the School.
June Smathers-Jolley leads the lead singers in the section choir while Zack Allen, who was nursing a cold, rests his voice. Zack brought an impressive display of vintage and rare shaped-note books to the exhibit and explained the publishing history of the Christian Harmony during the exhibit time. Zack published the new facsimile edition of the 1873 Christian Harmony (Folk Heritage Books) which is the book used at the School.
Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw selects the next number for the alto singer to learn. She used an upstairs room with very little furnishing and lovely hardwood floors. Their singing made the room ring!
Participants were glad to get the "little red card" that was tucked away in their packets. It had the shapes and their names on it for easy reference!
A quick warm-up on the scale after the section choirs, and the group was ready to sing together! Video clips of the 2016 School can be found below.
The Quay Smathers Memorial Singing School only teaches the Walker shapes, therefore it highly endorses the Folk Heritage Book's recent Facsimile Edition of the 1873 Christian Harmony. The book can be ordered at christianharmony1873.org
It was a cold, windy day in April, but everyone's hearts were warm from a day of singing and fellowship. Our echo reached the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and mingled with the echo of our ancestors singing from the Christian Harmony almost 150 years ago.
We know Quay would have enjoyed the day immensely - he loved nothing better than to sing, unless that would be to teach Christian Harmony. Make plans now to join us for 2017!
Shaped-Notes in the Round
The School participants try their first part singing and even impressed themselves!
2016 School Videos
We were fortunate to have Quay's grandson, Emmy Award winning filmmaker Evan Shaw, videotape the School. At some point the footage will be used in a larger documentary about Blue Ridge shaped-note singing. For now, Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw, Evan's mom, is editing and posting clips for enjoying on the website. If you attended the 2016 School, look closely - you might see yourself! (Note: Elizabeth makes NO claims to having won any Emmy's, but she's learning a lot from Evan, so who knows...one day?) UPDATE: August 2018 Liz did win an Emmy for her soundtrack to one of Evan's documentary films!
Bass Section Reshearsal
Larry Beveridge does an expert job leading our three adventurous bass singers in their part on "New Britain" (better known as "Amazing Grace.") The bass singers grabbed the historic third floor chapel for their rehearsals, and you can hear the altos below them now and then.
Lead Section Rehearsal
June Smathers-Jolley and Lynn Shaw put the lead singers through their paces, while June admits she has a problem with late night singing on her houseboat.