by Mike Hinton
The 25th Ohio Sacred Harp Convention was held last weekend at the First Lutheran Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Ohio Convention rotates between Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati. Early Saturday morning we were greeted with snow. It lasted long enough to tie up traffic on the highways and it took a while to clear a number of accidents. So, a little snow can cause trouble in Ohio as it does in other cities. I had been to one other Ohio Convention in Columbus a few years ago.
The First Lutheran Church is in downtown Cincinnati in an area of the city which was once "infested" with crime, drugs, decaying buildings and most citizens stayed away from the area. I was told that in the last 10 years a massive city program has changed it into the beautiful area it is now. A large almost block-long park is across the street from the church. The city also recently put a streetcar loop north and south and another east and west. The result is a beautiful area with a huge downtown area with offices, businesses and first class places to eat. Three of us took the 45 minute streetcar loop around the city and were amazed at how clean the city was, how well maintained the office buildings were and how impressive the city and state office building were. There is also pro football stadium and baseball stadium next to the river. All in all, it was good to see a city which has successfully undergone a revitalization of parts of the downtown area which is now used by so many local folks and visitors too.
Back to the church. A Lutheran Church has been in the 170 year old building for 100 years. The local singers are a well organized group of folks and they had curb-side help for singers to drop-off food, books etc before going to park their cars. The same group also would take care of books and cookware until singers could get their cars and get back to the church to pick up the items. The curbside book valet "crew" also served as greeters to singers arriving on foot and who might have been unsure exactly where to enter the church. It was a nice way to be greeted and to know where to enter the church.
The church basement has a large multipurpose room which was an excellent singing space, hard floors and walls and no carpet or curtains to "soak up" any of the sound. It also had a kitchen and dining areas so those kind folks who helped prepare the dinner on the grounds could also hear the singing as they worked.
The class was excellent both days! We sang 79 tunes on Saturday and 94 on Sunday. We sang tunes or every variety and all were sung with enthusiasm and in the time the leader desired. There was no emphasis on being pressed to get the songs sung quickly so the next leader could get in the hollow square. Singers came from 11 states and Canadian provinces. The class was nicely balanced and sound in the room was excellent and well suited for singing Sacred Harp. The folks who had to find a good singing space did a very fine job in selecting this church. The church had a Sunday 11:00 am worship service above the singing space so the officers scheduled the memorial lesson and sick and homebound lesson at that time. We sang tunes softly for each lesson, which was actually a nice way to honor those on the two lists. Ruth Wampler gave a touching reminder of the importance of keeping in contact with sick and homebound singers. Michelle Cull talked about the memorial lesson being for all singers who died in the last 12 months, but the Ohio singers were especially remembering John and Loraine Bayer who had been so active in Sacred Harp community in Ohio. They started the Dayton singing group in their home and were stalwart singers. It was obvious that the Ohio singers miss both of those good, kind and gentle folks very much. (The Bayer sons and daughter were at the singing on Saturday.) It was a special time of remembering all those folks who were on the memorial list and Michelle reminded us of the importance of the Memorial Lesson as an intergal part of our singing.
The Sacred Harp singers were asked to sing two tunes at the end of the church service in the sanctuary. We went into the beautiful sanctuary and stood in a hollow square and sang two tunes and the church members responded positively after hearing the music. It was nice of the pastor to ask the singers to join in the service in that way.
The Ohio Sacred Harp singers provided two days of delicious food for us. There was a great variety of crock pot dishes, casseroles, meats, salads and even some cornbread. Since I'm not eating desserts during lent, I did not even get close to the large table full of cakes, pies, cookies and other delectable looking desserts. My willpower is only so strong! The folks who provided the food know how to make Sacred Harp singers happy and well nourished. The "kitchen crew" was a well organized group and placed the food on serving tables and had the coffee, tea, lemonade and water ready for the singers when the noon blessing was finished. There was a large variety of food for every taste. Nobody went away hungry My wife often comments that "you surely do like to talk about the food at singings." I tell her I want to make sure that everyone who brought food knows how much I appreciate all the work and effort they put into cooking or baking and bringing the food to a singing AND how much I enjoyed the fruits of their labor. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
Saturday evening there was a "social" at a place about a block from the church. The "Venice on Vine" pizzeria - restaurant also serves as a pre-emplopyment training and job placement program. We had pizza and beverages and a nice time to visit with singers we may not see very often. After having all the pizza we wanted the group then sang tunes from the Shenandoah Harmony. Some of us left before the rest of the group went to another place where they were going to have a "cornhole tournament." Nobody was injured during the tournament and all were able to sing on Sunday.
The Sunday class was a tad smaller than the previous day, but the singing was excellent. The class was had a great time singing and enjoying a Sacred Harp day together. There was again a nice variety of tunes sung and the class was attentive and able to enthusiastically sing every tune called by the leaders.
The Ohio singers, and especially the Cincinnati singers, were fine hosts and hostesses and made all of us feel welcome and they appreciated having singers who travelled to sing with them. They even tolerated a few comments I made about the Sacred Harp Publishing Company and how the company directors appreciate them using the Sacred Harp, 1991 Edition for their conventions. It is always a pleasure to sing in various parts of the country with Sacred Harp singers. I always leave with a full heart and great appreciation for all the planning, preparation and work singers do to host a convention.
If you haven't been to an Ohio convention, put it on your list of "places to sing." I am sure you will enjoy the singing weekend there as much as I did.
Thank You Ohio Sacred Harp Singers for a fine singing weekend! Come and sing with us in Texas sometime!
San Antonio, TX
"Let's Sing On!"