The group that gathers twice a year to sing is made up of regular, long-time attendees and newcomers who are encouraged to visit and join in their first shape-note singing. The shape-note system, which was popular in congregations throughout the South in the nineteenth century—and to a declining, though still significant, degree in the twentieth century—was devised to simplify the reading of written music. This singing uses the 2010 edition of The Christian Harmony (a shaped note hymnal first published in 1866 by upcountry South Carolinian William Walker) which continues to be one of the most commonly used collections.
The Etowah Singing is one of several in Western North Carolina. Newcomers are very welcome. Typically, singings last from 10 AM to 3 PM with potluck dinner on the grounds at noon.
Singers gather at the Cummings Memorial Methodist Church in Horseshoe, on Banner Farm Road the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, and Saturday before the first Sunday in September. The gathering is free though donations are encouraged, and those who would like to take part in the dinner on the grounds are asked to bring a potluck dish to share.