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Wilson County was home to me and my family. We spent most of our time here, going to school, working on the farm and experiencing the charms of what our environment provided.
When we traveled to see our relatives in Anson County, we saw different people, had different experiences and enjoyed different charms from another area of the state.
One experience we had in Anson County that we did not have at home was going to those country “sangings” as we called them and enjoying the music heritage of our father’s side of the family.
During the ‘50s and early ‘60s, we went to a number of these events. Sometimes when we arrived at our grandparents’ home, we would hear that there was going to be a “sanging” at a nearby school or church and that we could all haul off and go if we wanted to. We children always wanted to go on a Saturday night and hear some of our family members, as well as other people, sing gospel music and play all those country instruments: guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and, of course, piano.
There were few solo acts; most acts were groups of two, three, four or more that divided up the parts, shared one microphone and sang their hearts out in front of a delighted audience. As they took their places on the stage, men, women and children took part in the fun and tried to outdo each other in glee and spirit.
Soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices sang in harmony and bounced off each other, filling up the space with song, rhythm and a little choreography as the tempo and volume were forever changing to share with the audience the spiritual ideas of the songs.
One memorable “sanging” that my family attended took place at Aquadale School, which was in Stanly County, adjacent to Anson County where our grandparents lived.
The school had it doors wide open on the summer evening. There was no air conditioning in schools back then, but we had not gone to be cool, but to be entertained by the music.
Most people dressed up in Sunday clothes for these special occasions.
One group after another took their places on the stage, sang their best songs and did justice to the gospel message of the evening.
All the music was live; there were no tapes or CDs, no bright lights or swirling smoke to distract from the efforts of the singers and instrumentalists. There was music, and that was enough.
We especially liked to hear a high tenor part from a man’s group and the incredibly low voice from a member of a women’s group. We were charmed by a man who could sing so high and a woman who could sing so low.
We had a cousin who had a problem with stuttering, but when she got up to sing soprano with her father’s bass and her brother’s tenor, she stuttered nary a word, her words coming out with joy and clarity. We used to say that when our uncle delivered one of his characteristic “mean runs,” the earth shook.
We loved those country “sangings” when we were young. The musicians sang and played out of pure joy, and they expected no compensation. There might have been a love offering taken during those events, but we were told that the money was used to rent the venue, not to pay the musicians.
After the “sanging” was over, there was a lot of back-patting and handshaking going on as the musicians mingled with the crowd. There was nothing like the good, clean entertainment we experienced, and the songs, mean runs, instrumental expertise and gospel messages soared in our hearts as we left the school and made our way back to our grandparents’ home near midnight.
I am not sure whether they still have country “sangings” in that part of the state. If they do not, a little bit of country heritage has fallen by the wayside. And if they do, I want to go again.
But I know I would miss my deceased uncle who could make the earth shake with his bass voice and his incredible “mean runs.”
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.