Cleburne County natives, Seaborn and Thomas Denson, better known as the Denson Brothers, were the patriarchs of Alabama Sacred Harp music. They produced the seminal Sacred Harp songbook and for more than 50 years wrote and sang this traditional music and conducted singing schools from Georgia to Texas. The “sacred harp” is the human voice, and shape-note singing is an unaccompanied acapella style of performance. It traces its roots back to the tradition of using shapes and syllables to learn musical notes in eleventh-century Italy. In 1936, the first Denson edition of The Original Sacred Harp book was published. The heading for each song is the title of its tune, not the first line of the lyrics. The “Denson Book” is the most widely used of the hardback “old song” books. The annual National Sacred Harp Singing Convention is held the third week in June at a host church in Birmingham, and singers from all over come to sing from the Denson Book for three days.
Photos courtesy of: Alabama Department of Archives and History