Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Oxford American : the southern magazine of good writing
Southern Girl A show of beauty arranged by Carol Ann Fitzgerald, the managing editor of The Oxford American. I Want to Die A-Shouting Published September 7, 2011 Johnathon Kelso didn't like shape-note singing at first (in fact, he says he hated it, because it sounded weird). Shape-note singing (also known as Sacred Harp singing) is sung loud and hearty and it's a participatory sort of experience: If you want to hear it, you sit with the singers and join in. (The sound is not supposed to be pretty, so even tone-deaf singers are welcome.) For Kelso, who's now hooked, it's as much about the friendships as the music. Usually held in Baptist churches (though it's nondenominational), a typical singing can last most of the day—it's a spiritual and social event. The music dates back to ye olde Colonial days—which may explain its calisthenic vigor—and sounds more like anthem than hymn. Fans include Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson, among many other aficionados. I Want to Die A-Shouting, Kelso's warmly personal series of photographs documenting the culture, is on view at Twist Art Gallery in Nashville. His views are serene, even cleansing.