Sacred Harp singing comes to Columbiana March 15

Mary Elliott and Buell Cobb at Redlawn Farm, their home in Fourmile. Buell will speak and autograph his book, "Sacred Harp" at the SCAC March 15  at 1 p.m. (contributed)

Mary Elliott and Buell Cobb at Redlawn Farm, their home in Fourmile. Buell will speak and autograph his book, “Sacred Harp” at the SCAC March 15 at 1 p.m. (contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON/Community columnist

The Alabama Folklife Association will debut its new exhibit, “We’ll all Sing Hallelujah: Sacred Sounds of Alabama,” Saturday, March 15 , from 1– 8 p.m. in Columbiana.

Spend the day learning Sacred Harp history, seeing and hearing artifacts, and experiencing traditional courthouse community singing in the hallowed square followed by dinner on the grounds. No experience is required, all activities are free but registration is requested.

Sacred Harp singing consists of four-part, a cappella harmony using four-shape notes. Singers sit in the hollow-square with a leader in the center, altos facing tenors and basses facing trebles. The song is first sung by the shape notes – fa (triangle), sol (oval), la (rectangle),mi (diamond) – and then sung with the words.

The day of Sacred Harp activities begins from 1-4 p.m. at the Shelby County Arts Council gallery, 104 Mildred Street. At 1 p.m. singer and author Buell Cobb will share a reading and autograph his new book, “Like Cords Around My Heart, A Sacred Heart Memoir.” Buell is married to the former Mary Elliott, whose Shelby County roots are deep. Her father was Shelby County School Superintendent Woodrow Wilson Elliott and former principal of Fourmile School.

“My first courthouse singing was in Cullman in 1965 at age 21,” Cobb said. “I felt like I had come home; it spoke to me on many levels.”

Dr. David Warren, author of “Makers of Sacred Harp,” will lecture at 2 p.m., followed at 3 p.m. by a public discussion with panelists and Sacred Harp enthusiasts Dr. Nathan Rees, Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg, David Ivey and Cobb.

From 4-7 p.m. there will be Scared Harp singing at the Shelby County Museum and Archives, the oldest courthouse in Shelby County. Dinner will be provided by Bernie’s restaurant at 7:00 p.m.

This special day to learn and experience the Southern musical tradition of Sacred Harp is provided by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, Alabama Folklife Association, Alabama State Council of the Arts, National Endowment of the Arts, “Support the Arts” car tag fund and Shelby County Arts Council. For more information and to register, go to

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

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