Noncongregational settings were integral to hymnody in the postbellum settler colonial context of the southern United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The incorporation of hymn singing into a wide range of noncongregational settings served Black, white, and Native populations in navigating unsettled racial dynamics during this period across the US South and its diasporas. This essay features three case studies examining hymn collections intended or repurposed for a range of noncongregational uses: spiritual collections connected with the performing ensembles of black institutions, a shape-note songbook that attempted to bridge singing convention and congregational contexts, and a Cherokee-language hymnal being repurposed today for community singing facilitating language learning. Features of these music books’ bibliographic forms, and elements of their music stylistic contents, facilitated their use in communal settings. We argue that taking noncongregational contexts seriously helps to unpack hymns’ connections to race and place, reveal relationships between hymnbooks’ music genre affiliations and formats and their musical-religious functions, and illuminate latent pedagogical and research opportunities. Our case studies expand the temporality associated with noncongregational hymn singing and highlight the value of bibliography as a methodological approach to assessing hymn singing’s diverse contexts.
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Karlsberg, Jesse P.; Crawley, Kaylina M.; and Hopkins, Sara S.
"(Special Section, Hymns Beyond the Congregation II): Spiritual Concert-Fundraisers, Singing Conventions, and Cherokee Language Learning Academies: Vernacular Southern Hymnbooks in Noncongregational Settings,"
Yale Journal of Music & Religion:
1, Article 8.