A Sacred Feast: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground By Kathryn Eastburn

    Kathryn Eastburn  1 SUMMARY

    Some have called Sacred Harp singing America’s earliest music. This powerful nondenominational religious singing, part of a deeply held Southern culture, has spread throughout the nation over the past two centuries. In A Sacred Feast, Kathryn Eastburn journeys into the community of Sacred Harp singers across the country and introduces readers to the curious glories of a tradition that is practiced today just as it was two hundred years ago.  Each of the book’s chapters visits a different region and features recipes from the accompanying culinary tradition—dinner on the ground, a hearty noontime feast. From oven-cooked pulled pork barbeque to Dollar Store cornbread dressing to red velvet cake, these recipes tell a story of nourishing the body, the soul, and the voice. The Sacred Harp’s deeply moving sound and spirit resonate through these pages, captured at conventions in Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Colorado, and Washington, conveyed in portraits of singers, and celebrated in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of all-day singing and dinner on the ground echoing through generations and centuries. A Sacred Feast: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground

    A Sacred Feast takes the journey of Kathryn Eastburn's introduction to and unfolding love for Sacred Harp singing. As a journalist, she is commissioned to write a piece on a Texas Sacred Harp sing, and from that point forward, narrates the next several years of traveling to Sings in different regions of the country. Eastburn writes vividly about these local singers she gets to know - the things that make each singing locale unique, individuals that strike her and she gets to know better over time, the things that bind all the sings together, all the while as she becomes part of the national community. She particularly highlights the meaningfulness of the dinner on the ground, with recipes at the end of every chapter taken from the singers in that area.

    A quick read, Eastburn is clearly a gifted writer. This is a good read if someone wants to understand a bit more about what can pull new singers into this living tradition. English A lovely, accidental discovery by a local editor that is part history, part appreciation, part recipes; and all a love story for Sacred Harp. English I love shape note singing and I loved every page of this delightful reflection (by a hometown editor, too!). Eastburn's fascination and wonder comes through on every page. English I stuck my toe into Sacred Harp singing once upon a time, and I loved it. But, circumstances and a slight feeling of inhospitality in the group I sang with, ran me off. (It was probably me!) Kathryn Eastburn's account of this marvelous sacred harp singing tradition, makes me long to join up again. The shape notes take some getting used to and I never quite did, but Eastburn's explanation of how to do it made me feel more secure. She travels widely to group sings and explores the tradition and the people who keep the art alive. I particularly loved the description of the shape note singers in Portland, OR who consist of many young people who dress outlandishly,sport tattoos and piercings, and sing their heads off. I favor Eastburn's writing style and her inclusion of her family history in this account. She also includes recipies of the yummy food that is shared, potluck fashion, at all day, all weekend sings all over the country. Weight Watcher's would probably drop dead at the amount of butter and cream in many of the offerings but they sure souond good to me. Eastburn includes list of films, websites, CD'and camps that promote sacred harp singing and a bibliography of her cited works. A joyful read! English I was prepared to be a bit skeptical about this, but it won me over. It's a lovely account of several Sacred Harp conventions and dinner on the grounds. Eastburn captures the flavors (sorry) of both the singing and the food of this tradition. She visits a few different singings and recounts her experiences there. At the end of the chapter there are the recipes for the dishes prepared by the people she's talked with. It's not a comprehensive book, but it's not trying to be. I just wished there were more pictures and that they were in color. All in all, a lovely addition to the literature about Sacred Harp. English

    This is a short and sweet little account of shape-note singing communities around the country, full of lovely descriptions of dinner on the ground (and recipes). However, at times, it reads like a somewhat impersonal journalistic who's who of the Sacred Harp world. I wish Ms. Eastburn had delved a bit deeper into the effect of Sacred Harp on her personal life. English As a Sacred Harp singer, let me point out first are foremost that there are no harps in Sacred Harp singing; the term refers to the human voice as an instrument, and all songs are sung with no instrumental accompaniment. Also known as shape note singing, it is one of the oldest musical traditions in the United States and has an extremely interesting history. English An excellent overview of the Sacred Harp tradition - and I intend to try making at least one of those recipes. English

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