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.

Author Biography

Jesse P. Karlsberg, PhD, is Senior Digital Scholarship Strategist at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) and associated faculty in the Department of Music at Emory University. Jesse is editor-in-chief and project director of Sounding Spirit Collaborative, a National Endowment for the Humanities–funded initiative publishing scholarly editions and a digital library of sacred vernacular southern music books. Jesse edited Original Sacred Harp: Centennial Edition (Pitts Theology Library, 2015) and is editor of the forthcoming Sacred Tunes and Hymns (1913): A Scholarly Edition (under contract with UNC Press in the Sounding Spirit series). An internationally recognized Sacred Harp singer, teacher, composer, and songbook editor, Jesse is a member of the committee revising The Sacred Harp tunebook and vice president of the non-profit Sacred Harp Publishing Company.

Kaylina Madison Crawley received a PhD in Musicology/Ethnomusicology from the University of Kentucky. Her dissertation is titled “John Wesley Work III: Arranger, Preserver, and Historian of African American Traditional Music.” She graduated with a Master of Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University and summa cum laude from Fisk University with a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance. She was the Director of the Community Academy of Music and Arts at Tennessee State University. She currently serves as Music and Theater Supervisor for the Nashville Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation.

Sara Snyder Hopkins is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology and Director of the Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University where she teaches Cherokee language and linguistic anthropology courses. She received a PhD in Music (Ethnomusicology) from Columbia University in 2016 with coursework in linguistic anthropology at New York University. Hopkins is the editor for the forthcoming Cherokee Singing Book (1846): A Scholarly Edition (under contract with UNC Press in the Sounding Spirit series). She is also the Project Director for Eastern Cherokee Histories in Translation (ECHT), which has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Heisse Historic Preservation Fund, and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Hopkins also co-directs the Cherokee Language Repertory Choir. Prior to working at WCU, she worked for five years as the music and arts teacher for New Kituwah Academy, the Cherokee language immersion school for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.

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