African-American Note Choirs of Alexander County N
From December until June, on the first Sunday of each month, three African-American choirs in Alexander County, N. C., gather to share in a time of fellowship, music, and spiritual uplifting. Known as 'note choirs,' these singers from Third Creek Baptist, Gethesmane Missionary Baptist and Mount Carmel Baptist churches are the last remaining members of the Alexander County First Sunday Singing Convention, which has taken place for over fifty years. As receipents of the 1998 North Carolina Folklore Society Community Traditions Award, these choirs practice shape note singing, or sacred harp, as it is most commonly known. Music teachers and publishers utilized a notation system of four distinct shapes, later replaced by a seven-shape method, to educate the masses in music reading and hymn singing.