Sacred Harps and Envious Dudes

Paul Harvey

The Jan. - Feb. issue of Books and Culture is out (subscribe here). It includes my review of Kiri Miller's Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism, along with a lighter text, Kathryn Eastburn's A Sacred Feast: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground. These books make nice companions to go along with the documentary Awake My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp.

Just a little fun anecdote from Miller's book:
Consider how a self-professed liberal folk music revivalist such as Miller deals with this lyric from “Stafford,” a beloved Sacred Harp classic with lyrics by Isaac Watts:

See what a living stone
The builders did refuse
Yet God hath built His church thereon,
In spite of env’ous Jews.

Serious suggestions for replacing the embarrassing last line included substituting lyrics such as “lest we salvation lose,” or “in spite of envious few.” But other fasola class clowns came up with their own alternatives, such as “in spite of empty pews,” “in spite of drugs and booze,” and – my favorite – “in spite of envious dudes” (193).


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