Listen

The best way to understand the Blue Ridge style of shaped-note singing is to hear it. Click below and listen to samples of William Walker's Christian Harmony sung at shaped-note singings from the 1960's to the present day.  Check back often as new selections will be continually added! (Because these recordings were done on different devices over a 55 year timespan, quality and volume will vary. Adjust your speakers accordingly. If you can provide more information about a particular recording, please contact us!) 

Pisgah #1

Leader - Quay Smathers, circa 1973

Etowah, NC

Quay often led this popular selection. The high male voice singing "treble" is that of Quay's brother, Vaughn Smathers. Quay and Vaughn decided to help keep Christian Harmony alive as a tribute to their parents. Their mother learned from a singing master trained by William Walker and their father directed the Christian Harmony singing at Morning Star United Methodist Church until his death in 1944. Occasionally when time was running short, singing the syllables was omitted, especially on a very familiar song as "Pisgah." Also, in this recording Quay requested a piano chord to give him the key he wanted. He made use of a musical instrument, pitch pipe, tuning fork, or his ear to "pitch" a tune - depending on his mood at the moment! 

Pisgah #2

Leader - Quay Smathers, circa 1994

Old Folks Day, Morning Star Methodist

Canton, NC

Notice the faster pace and fuller voices on this rendition compared to "Pisgah #1."  Quay pitches it by ear and the church echos with the large crowd. This was most likely in the early 1980's when the Christian Harmony singing at Morning Star experienced a revival of sorts and many young people from Quay's college classes and festival workshops began to make their way into Dutch Cove every September from around the United States for  what continues to be one of the oldest shaped-note singings in the world. (Apologies for the "hiss" that breaks through at times - these are old recordings! Efforts are underway to have them corrected in a sound studio.)

In That Morning #1

Leader - George Reynolds 9/10/2000

Old Folks Day, Morning Star Methodist

Canton, NC

George Reynolds, leads this favorite of Uncle Bruz (George) Smathers. Reynolds brought students from the Foxfire Program in Rabun Gap, GA to meet and record Uncle Bruz in Dutch Cove, south of Canton, NC, and the two became lasting friends. Uncle Bruz's hands are featured on the Gallery page holding his Christian Harmony book - photo taken by the Foxfire participants on the day they visited him, circa 1981. Uncle Bruz was Quay Smathers' uncle and they both are featured in Foxfire 7. Compare the youthfulness of the choir to "In That Morning #2."

In That Morning #2

Leader - Richard Moss, circa 1973

Etowah, NC

The hair will rise on the back of your neck

when shaped-note singing master Richard

Moss of the Hayesville, NC, area pitches

the key and then "falls" into the song. The

singers making up the choir that day were

abouy 90% elderly folks who had been singing

most of their lives. A few young singers,

including Quay's treenage daughter Elizabeth, were in the congregation, however, younger voices did not influence the sound as much as in the 2000 recording at Old Folks Day of "In That Morning #1" when most of the old-timers had passed on and their numbers were in the minority.

Minister's Farewell

Leader - June Smathers-Jolley 9/10/2000

Old Folks Day - Morning Star Methodist

Canton, NC

June leads the song her father Quay Smathers often used to close a singing. She is a founder and staff member of the Quay Smathers Memorial Singing School. She relied on someone else to pitch it, which  is a common custom if the leader asks for it. Shaped-note singing etiquette dictates that the leader must ask for it, however. Quay would often remind folks to leave the leader alone while they set the key!

 

Passing Away

Leader - David Holt, circa 1973

Etowah, NC

Quay made a special point of involving new singers and encouraging them to become leaders. At this singing he invited newcomer David Holt to lead two numbers. David eventually directed the Appalachian Music program at Warren Wilson College and arranged for Quay to teach several Christian Harmony singing schools. 

 

Ninety-Fifth

Leader - Laura Boosinger 9/10/2000

Old Folks Day, Morning Star Methodist

Canton, NC

This fugue is a popular song at most shaped-note singings. Old-timers often referred to fugues as "feuding tunes" which is actually descriptive as the different parts do seem to compete with each other at times. 

Star in the East 

Leader - Wayne Richards  9/10/2000

Old Folks Day, Morning Star Methodist

Canton, NC     

Unfortunately, recorded without singing the syllables, but still a lovely version of this Christmas favorite. The Christian Harmony contains several beautiful Christmas songs that are often sung any time of year at various shaped-note singings in the Blue Ridge Mountains.