and her daughter Anna to attend the annual southern Wisconsin all-day
shape-note singing the next day, a day of singing from The Sacred Harp.
Dodgeville is a charming little town, and after a fine breakfast at the
Courthouse restaurant (I resisted ordering the bailiff's special) we went
off to the Folklore Village Farm for the singing. We drove back to the
Twin Cities Saturday evening, which provided us with the most glorious
clear continuous view of the lunar eclipse you could wish for. To be
driving through the countryside in a car on a cold clear night is ideal.
This journal entry is a report I sent to the mailing list of shape-note
singers about the singing itself. The laundry list of names that constitutes
the core of this report will have no emotional resonance for most of you, of
The Wisconsin all-day singing on Saturday was a very fine singing, indeed.
From beginning to end, without falter, it was not just a strong class but a
happy class, an excited class, a group of people who were there to sing with each
other without pause or self-consciousness. Each leader ended his or her lesson
with a look or sometimes the actual words that said, "That was as good as could
This singing is held in a restored 19th-century church on the grounds of Folklore
Village Farm in Dodgeville. This church, to my ears and sensibility, works
spectacularly well. It is easy on the voice, and it crowds the singers together
in a way that causes each part to support the others. The surrounding countryside
is beautiful; that area of Wisconsin, with its rolling hills and farms and Victorian
streetscapes as you pass through towns, is one of the most lovely areas of the
For me in particular there was a happy emotional overlay of homecoming. When I
first moved to the midwest 15 years ago, I was happy to have the opportunity to
sing with a strong core group from Chicago and Saint Louis and Madison and
Southern Illinois. I sang with these folks in Chicago and Madison, and this is
the group that came to Minnesota in force to help us out when we were getting started
with our own convention.
When the convention began on Saturday morning, I looked around and there were Ted and
Marcia Johnson and Becky Brown and Gary Gronau and Julie Vea and Jim Page and Jeanette
Lowry and Lisa Grayson and Ted Mercer and Jan Katelle and Kathy Keiser and Karen Isbell
and Melanie Hauff and Jerry Enright and Dave Ressler and Janet Fraembs and Johanne Fabke
and Val and Dick Dunegan and Colette and Francis Gurtz and Convention Chairs Carol and
Jim Crawford and right next to me on the bench was Judy Hauff.
I mention all these names (leaving out others who were in attendance) to give an idea
of how many people I sang with on Saturday whom I have been singing with in the midwest
for all the many years I have lived here. I have been unable to attend the last few
Wisconsin conventions, so this was a revived and unusual reunion treat for me.
As I say, there were many others in attendance, from throughout the midwest. Martha
and Bill Beverly and Henry Schuman came from Michigan, and many others from Chicago
and Wisconsin and Southern Illinois (forgive the omission of all the names), and
many other singers from Minnesota: Kit Pfau and Anna Pfau and Jeannette Nelson and
Christine Stevens and Matt and Lara Wells and Martha Henderson and Denise Kania
and Eleanor Haas and Paul Wyatt. Yes, it was a reunion and a homecoming. It was
very much a Midwest Convention.
It is standard in these reports to mention key moments of the day, particular lessons
of great impact and stories of the dinner or crazy things that happen on the sidelines
(you know, like Julie's car going into a ditch and Paul having to tow her out, things
like that), but to me this did not feel like a day of key moments. Instead, it felt
like one continuous stream of singing, of joyous singing with other people who want
to be together to sing from The Sacred Harp as much as I do.
And that's what I wanted to report to this group.