R.S. Thomas Memorial Singing Saturday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m.
at Smyrna Baptist Church on Smyrna Church Road south of Chatsworth...
A century ago, virtually every one of Georgia’s counties, like those in most states from Virginia to Texas, had singing conventions where individuals and groups from churches of various denominations would come together periodically to learn and sing new southern gospel songs published by various companies scattered across the southeast. The songs were printed in “shaped note” format and singers learned, and, sometimes sang, the syllable names—do, re, me, fa, sol, la, and ti as well as the lyrics, accompanied by musicians on piano and/or organ. It came to be called “shaped-note singing” or “sacred-harp singing” (the human voice being the sacred harp).
The Murray County Singing Convention was organized in 1909 and met at churches throughout the county in both spring and fall sessions for about seventy-five years. When this group disbanded, Mr. R.S. Thomas of Whitfield County, but choir director at Smyrna Baptist Church in Murray County, began a “combined” convention singing at his home church.
Mr. Thomas, who worked in the carpet and then in the printing industries for many years as well as serving in the Georgia Senate, had been a part of gospel singing since the 1920’s when he went to conventions at the “shed” at Pleasant Grove in Whitfield County. He traveled to singings in several states for most of eight decades before his death in the summer of 2011 at the age of 93. He continued to be a part of the music program at Smyrna, too, leading songs until just weeks before his passing.
Leaders of the quarterly Murray County Singing Convention have named the next session the R.S. Thomas Memorial Singing which will be held on Saturday, May 28 at Smyrna Baptist Church on Smyrna Church Road south of Chatsworth. The music begins at 7 p.m. and will include a selection of songs in tribute to this singer, leader, and promoter of convention style gospel music.
Special guest for the singing will be well-known North Georgia composer Mr. Morris Stancil who has written such songs as “Because He Loved Me” and “Beautiful Home.” Efforts are underway to publish a new compilation of Stancil’s songs, some of which will be heard at the convention.
Refreshments will be served after the singing. An offering will be received for the R. S. Thomas Music Scholarship Fund. Rev. Andrew Bowen, pastor, invites all those who knew R.S. or love this music to attend. For more information call 706-695-2740 or visit the church website at www.smyrnabaptistchurch.org.
Smyrna Baptist Church
1913 Smyrna Church Road
Chatsworth, GA 30705