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Influx and Immigration
"Give us your Loud, your Hungry..."

Without the surge of shape-note immigration during the 1700s, our globe-spanning Sacred Harp empire might still consist only of our traditional "two-holer and wood stove." But immigrants did come, clamoring to "let us sing," and the ranks of active Sacred Harp singers swelled from an (estimated) 14 in 1698 to "well over three dozen" a mere 80 years later, according to official statistician Reese Hampton. "They just swarmed into the South," he elaborates. "The only fella that may have come by accident was that lifeguard from Australia."

 The map illustrates the most common land and sea routes used by the hopeful vocalists. These wayfaring strangers trickled into the vast Melting Pot of central Georgia by all methods imaginable. Riding goat carts from Eastern Europe, laboriously dragging wheelless sledges grinding their way up from South America, and simply on foot, drifting from the dense woods into the settlements and towns, one by one they came.


 Hampton pulls from his desk a cracked, brown page from a journal, and displays an eyewitness description of the amazing influx one June of 15 Inuit down from over the Bering Strait. This is the largest single movement of singers ever recorded in Sacred Harp annals up until the famous "bus to Boston" in the 1980s. The northerners were apparantly responding to widespread but groundless rumors that "Walrus brisket and grits (was) a staple of dinner on the grounds in Georgia."

 They may have been misled deliberately by unscrupulous recruiters working on commission. It does us in Sacredharpdom no good simply to deny the poorly-documented and often hidden policies of some of the shadier song-leaders from that era of ruthless competition for well-balanced harmony. Only through the truth can rifts be healed.

  "In any event", Hampton's journal continues, "though disappointed and hot, once they had checked their harpoons at the door, the Inuit were made nearly as welcome as any others unto our musical shores." Let it be ever so!