I’m not a religious man, but I know what I believe

Less a statement on my own (and my family’s) atheism/agnosticism then a preference towards that good, old-fashioned religion, in musical form.

I’m someone who grew up in a church-going Methodist home that was less concerned with strict adherence to dogma than it was with regular attendance, singing in the choir and potluck dinners. My childhood memories are of extended family and community and less fire & brimstone or wonderment & salvation.

In either case, I was really struck by a recent Paste magazine article, Shout and Sing the Good Old Way: A Sacred Harp Story.

Again, never heard a Sacred Harp song sung traditionally.
Never been to a tent revival.
No speaking in tongues or strychnine drinking or handling snakes.

Which leads me to the music of Sacred Harp re-imagined in contemporary ways. A blending of the traditional, a capella arrangements with a modern, popular sensibility and instrumentation. The resulting albums – one traditional the other re-imagined, documentary and supporting information can be found at Awake My Soul. Here’s a trailer for the film, which features some of the original Sacred Harp singing.

I know what I like, and I LOVE The Good Players’ interpretation of David’s Lamentation from the album, Disc 1: Help Me to Sing: Songs of the Sacred Harp performed by various artists.

Jenn and I swore that parts of it weren’t even in English (see: “Tongues, Speaking In” above) but it’s actually quite haunting and sad when you read them:

David the king was grieved and moved
He went to his chamber, and wept;
And as he went he wept, and said,
‘Oh my son! Would to God I had died
For thee, Oh Absalom, my son.

Even if you don’t find religion, you’ll like the tune and the sentiment. As a parent, I can completely relate.

4 thoughts on “I’m not a religious man, but I know what I believe

  1. My grandfather, founder of Fairview United Methodist Church where I was brought up, was raised in the Sacred Harp singing tradition. He called it by the other name. To him, it was “shape note” singing. His favorite tune was “Above The Hills (Of Time).”

    He’s been gone for going on ten years now. I miss his voice, his laugh. It might behoove me to better understand this way of singing that made perfect sense to him, but bewilders me to this day.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Seth. I didn’t even know about it. My maternal grandparents grew up attending Liberty Baptist Church. If you and Jenn would like to go over for Decoration Day next spring, let me know. They usually have the biggest crowd for singing that weekend.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been looking for this song but couldn’t locate a “Good Players” album. Now I know what album I’m looking for! This is an amazing track.

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