Southern Folk Passion
Brenda Bynum, Reader
Timothy Miller, Tenor
Steven Darsey, Music Director
April 5, 2020
Southern Folk Passion is structured around tunes from Georgia’s 19th century tunebook, The Sacred Harp. The Sacred Harp has inspired a growing, international folk singing tradition, attracting participants of many races and faiths. These tunes, with texts based on Hebrew and Christian scripture, embody musical strains of an ancient universality, inviting all to know the Passion of Christ. These attributes inspired renowned preacher Fred Craddock to remark that folk would recognize this music who have never heard it before.
This 27th annual presentation of Southern Folk Passion was held April 5, 2020, 7:30 p.m. at the historic Church at Ponce and Highland (formerly Druid Hills Baptist Church), 1085 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta. It featured the Meridian Chorale, Timothy Miller – soloist, conductor – Steven Darsey, and actress Brenda Bynum.
Among the African American proponents of Sacred Harp singing was Alabamian Dewey Williams (1898-1995). The grandson of slaves, his lifetime singing and leading Sacred Harp music brought him a number of honors, including designation as a NEA National Heritage Fellow.
Folk Passion features hymns from The Sacred Harp sung by the Meridian Chorale within the Passion of St. Mark read by Brenda Bynum. The Sacred Harp is one of many tunebooks produced by singing masters in the 19th century rural south. These masters found and notated tunes and texts frontier people were singing, thus preserving important hymns like “Wondrous Love” and “Bound for the Promised Land” for posterity.
Brenda Bynum is known for her dramatic readings of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, her devotion to Samuel Beckett and her portrayal of Violet Weston in August: Osage County. She has been involved in numerous productions in major theaters throughout the South. In honor of her many years teaching in their theater department, Emory University annually presents the “Brenda Bynum Award” to an outstanding drama student. Steven Darsey holds the Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting from the School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music at Yale and studied musicology with Peter le Huray at Cambridge and conducting with Helmuth Rilling at Stuttgart. In his conducting, he hews to the traditions of the late Maestro Robert Shaw. The Meridian Chorale includes some of the country’s finest professional singers. Meridian Herald is a winner of the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities.