Date of Award

8-7-2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Kathryn McClymond - Chair

Second Advisor

Louis Ruprecht

Third Advisor

Christopher White

Abstract

The extraordinary body of Sacred Harp music has been dubbed "the oldest continuously sung American music." Steven Marini, scholar of sacred arts, proposes that the Sacred Harp community welcomes anyone into their singings, regardless of their religious beliefs. His analysis does not take into account the emphasis placed on conversion to Christianity that is demonstrated by the lyrics and the rituals of the Sacred Harp community, however. Religion is not "a matter of personal faith" to Sacred Harp singers as Marini suggests, but a matter of a very specific set of faith commitments. The implications of these commitments for Sacred Harp singers determine their eternal destiny. An investigation into the lyrics of The Sacred Harp hymnal reveals a preoccupation with death, always with intent to point toward the individual "religious" choice of eternal death or eternal life and the desire to share that knowledge with anyone who comes in contact with this remarkable phenomenon.

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