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My Early Experience With Sacred Harp
By Dottie Hurley
        I remember it well. This was around 1968; Nixon was president. The annual Smithsonian Folk Festival was on and I was there. Among all the sounds, a particularly enchanting one was emanating from someplace "over there". I couldn't see where but I followed the sound. And I came upon a stage of singers from Alabama and Georgia. I'm pretty sure Hugh McGraw was leading, but I didn't know who he was until much, much later.       

         I listened and I wanted to sing too. Asking around after the performance I found that there was indeed a group of singers in "our town" that sang this very music. This was my introduction to Sacred Harp and to the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. I was also told that they met in a home once a month, sang and shared a pot lock supper. I think I went to the very next meeting.
        The homes were usually large. There were from 30 to 40 present, some with children. Many times I remember sitting on the floor. We didn't sing shapes, had no sections, no leaders and did not try to sing loud. We just sang and enjoyed the wonderful harmonies. We did have a little red wine to sustain us. We were strict about singing only Sacred Harp before dinner and only Christian Harmony afterwards.
        I remember thinking I'd never catch on but singers like Joe Hickerson, Peter Sailer, and Mary Helen Shortridge helped me gain confidence.



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