Shape-note Singing

Christian Harmony singers of Etowah

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Quay Smathers

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Quay Smathers

Shape-note singer and teacher and string band musician

Haywood County, NC

Quay Smathers played and sang the traditional music of Western North Carolina for over 65 years, and for much of that time was a leading force for its preservation. His love of the old-time music embraced both the secular and sacred traditions in the region. The Dutch Cove Stringband, which he formed with his three daughters, encouraged the revival of interest in the older-style string band music, which had begun to lose ground to more modern bluegrass sounds.

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John C. Campbell Folk School

John C. Campbell Folk School

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Glenn Bolick, Storyteller & Musician

Glenn Bolick, Storyteller & Musician

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Old Folks Day Singers at Morning Star Methodist Church

Shape-note singers

Canton, NC (Haywood County)

Since 1889, the Morning Star United Methodist Church southeast of Canton has hosted a gathering known as Old Folks Day. Thanks largely to the encouragement of North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient Quay Smathers, Old Folks Day became a favorite gathering of shape-note singers. Smathers, who is now deceased, had learned shape-note singing as a small child from family and community members in Haywood County, and from traveling singing masters who would visit churches for several days at a time, instructing the congregations in the singing of shaped notes.

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Clint Cornett

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Mary Greene

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Neil Oliver

Shape note singer

Zionville, NC (Watauga County)

"The way I got started with shape notes is I grew up with it," Neil Oliver says. His great-grandfather traveled around the region on horseback with a tuning fork and a musical chart written on a bed sheet, teaching singing schools at rural churches. His father led the choir at Mabel Baptist church for about 35 years, and his mother was the piano player. Outside of church, the Oliver family continued to sing. "We went to singings all over the country," Neil recalls. "We'd sing at church half the night, go to somebody's house and sing the other half of the night."

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Clint Cornett

Shape note singer

Vilas, NC (Watauga County)

"I love to hear new songs," Clint Cornett says, "and I like shape notes because they help me learn new songs fast." Clint has been the choir leader at the Mountain Dale Baptist Church in western Watauga County since the summer of 1954, and he teaches his church choir and music camps and schools around the region how to read music notation written in shape notes.

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