The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro is proud to present the first academic conference devoted to the Southern Gospel Convention-Singing tradition.

For well over a century, people throughout the South have been gathering at monthly or annual conventions to sing gospel songs from small, upright, "new books," in which the songs are printed in seven-shape notation. Most singers at these conventions have learned to sight-read the notation, and learned basic repertoire, by attending one of several schools devoted to this tradition scattered throughout the South. This amateur tradition, and the publishing and educational industries that accompany it, have been the fertile ground from which has come many well-known songs, and from which has emerged the world of professional southern gospel.

Southern gospel convention-singing evolved out of the older four-shape tradition embodied in The Sacred Harp and other oblong books. Its growth was led primarily by publishers such as Ruebush-Kieffer, Anthony J. Showalter, James D. Vaughan, Stamps-Baxter, Stamps Quartet, Hartford Music, and other smaller concerns. These publishers also sponsored the largest and best-known singing schools from the 1870s through the early 1960s. Emphasizing new songs in the gospel style, as opposed to the four-shape tradition's more conservative bent, the southern gospel convention tradition also embraces the use of instruments, most particularly piano, to accompany the singers.

This tradition is a vital part of the broad phenomenon of recreational and congregational group singing of sacred music that has its roots in the Protestant Reformation and Americans' responses to it. That phenomenon has played a central role in the history of Protestant music-making in the United States of America, from the unison and heterophonic psalm-singing of the colonial era, through the part-music of the nineteenth century, to the unison and homophonic choruses of modern praise-and-worship music.

Despite the enduring popularity of the southern gospel convention-singing tradition, and nearly a century of scholarship devoted to the broader world of Protestant congregational singing, it is a tradition that remains little studied and understood by the larger scholarly community. "Farther Along": A Conference on the Southern Gospel Convention-Singing Tradition is intended to help address this situation.

For additional conference information contact:

Kym Stricklin, Executive Aide
Center for Popular Music
Middle Tennessee State University
P.O. Box 41
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Fax: 615-898-5829