Fortunatley for us today, the Blue Ridge style of shaped-note singing has enjoyed a fair amount of attention in the media, especially in hometown newspapers announcing singing schools and annual sings. But the coverage has gone beyond that - nationally distributed newspapers, magazines, books, recordings and films have also featured it. Quay Smathers was often included in this content, and was given copies of recordings, clippings and photographs through the years. The Quay Smathers Memorial Singing School features an exhibit of many of these items.
Perhaps some of the most valuable documentation was done by Quay himself, a home movie buff outfitted with a trusty Bell and Howell 8-milimenter camera. He also used a cassette recorder to tape many of the singings he attended. Efforts are currently underway to have Quay's personal collection digitized. Check back here often to see what materials have been added!
In That Morning
This video features a recording of Richard Moss leading "In That Morning" at Etowah, NC - circa 1973. (Richard is in the first photograph.) The recording was made by Dr. Edith Card for her dissertation research on the performance style of Christian Harmony shaped-note singing in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the time. Moss was a master of all leaders, casting a spell on the singers and bringing out, in his words, "a sad weeping sound" to the numerous minor songs found in the book. Photographs include other old-time leaders - Quay Smathers, Lyman Clark and Leonard Westmoreland, all from the Canton, NC, area. Singings depicted are from Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University and Old Folks Day at Morning Star United Methodist Church in the Dutch Cove area of Canton, birthplace of Quay Smathers and scores of other Blue Ridge style shaped-note singers. Tucked among some of the singers in these photographs are several of the QSMSS teachers - Laura Boosinger, Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw, Lynn Shaw and Zack Allen, all of whom learned at the knees of the old-timers.
Dinner on the Grounds
Food is an important part of shaped-note singing! All day singings are quite common, and a noon meal is shared by singers and listeners who have toted heavily laden picnic baskets to the affair full of homemade delights. Recipes are often shared, and certain folks are counted on to bring favorites from year to year. Sue Smathers, Quay's wife, was known for bringing enough food to feed an army - and army of singers that Quay invited from around the country to attend Old Folks Day at Morning Star United Methodist Church each September. She was known for making six pies, a four layer German chocolate cake, a huge country ham, and the favorite of everyone - two gallons of chicken and dumplings. In fact, when you look at this video, notice how many photos show a stainless steel dumpling pot on the left side of the table! By the way, in the Southern Appalachians, the noon meal is sometimes called "dinner" and the evening meal, "supper." The term "dinner on the grounds" refers to a noon meal on the grounds of the church or wherever the shaped-note singing is being held. (The background song is Pisgah, led by Quay Smathers at Morning Star circa 1994.)