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Johnathon Kelso

Artist Statement Submitted 2015

In 1844 B.F White and E.J King published The Sacred Harp, a songbook that became the premier repository of shape-note songs in the south. “Shape-note” singing employs a distinctive musical notation of four shapes, which corresponds to four syllables. Sacred Harp singers sing, often in rough-hewn Primitive Baptist churches and have sung these soul-stirring hymns for one another and for God throughout the South for over 150 years. In the South, families have preserved Sacred Harp singing with such fervor that this tradition, which was once thought to be dying out, is now regaining its momentum and brining about a new generation of singers from all over the country and abroad – myself included. The series not only documents the Sacred Harp tradition in its contemporary form, but also conveys the fellowship and immense joy within. My hope is that viewers walk away from these photographs wanting to sing.

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