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Mass choir entertains as part of hymn festival

Some 200 music lovers and church-goers alike have had the opportunity to experience the sounds of hymns ringing out from local churches this week.

“Our Story, Our Song: Celebrating Our Heritage of Hymns,” a three-day conference held Thursday, Friday and today, allows people to explore the cultural and historical contexts of various traditions of congregational singing.

Event Organizer Dr. Steve Hubbard, who is the organist at the First Presbyterian Church, said he got the idea when the church sent him to a worship and music conference in North Carolina.

“I met Michael Morgan and heard Mary Louise Bringle,” he said.

“I thought ‘maybe we could bring them to Andalusia.’ We’ve been working on it for a little more than a year.”

Hubbard said the conference presented the opportunity for people to learn more about different types of hymns that take a different religious focus than the norm.

Event-goers had the opportunity to sit in on lectures and classes on all types of congregational hymns, African hymns, shape note singing, folk singing, music writing and even sing in a choir.

Dr. James Abbington, an Emory University professor of music and worship, taught a workshop on African hymns.

“James Abbington helped make us aware of hymns not sung much here, but in Africa,” Hubbard said.

Abbington gave his presentation, but also helped with the high school and adult choral groups.

“I think Steve Hubbard and those who have surrounded and supported him in bringing some of the most neglected, but meaningful human connections into this convocation did an amazing job,” Abbington said. “

Karl Barth said, ‘The Christian church must sing,’ and he is absolutely correct.” Abbington and Covington County native Randall Bradley, who gave a lecture on the history of hymns in Covington County, were the clinicians for the high school and adult choir that came together to sing at the First Baptist Church Whatley Street for the Hymn Festival Friday night.

Bradley said he hopes the students, who were from Andalusia High School and Wilcox-Central High School, would gain a deeper appreciation for music. “I hope they had fun and will continue to see singing as something they will want to continue to do,” Bradley said.

“We had about 90 students participating and a science teacher (Angie Sasser) accompanying.”

Hubbard said he estimates about 100 people, not including the students in the chorus, have attended the conference.

Abbington said his goal was to “educate, inspire and enlighten on congregational songs.”

He applauded everyone for working together.

“It’s been wonderful. We’ve been to many different churches, and we have black, white and other races working together. It’s a little touch of eternity. It’s something I will remember many times.”

Hubbard said there were also opportunities for sacred harp singing and other folk singing as well as two class sessions on writing hymn lyrics.

Others speakers were Joyce Cauthen, Steve Grauberger and Stanley Smith.

The conference will end today with the fourth lecture “They Love to Tell the Story: Hymn Texts in Southern Fiction” with Bringle at 8:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, followed by a panel discussion consisting of Bringle, Abbington and Morgan, with Bradley moderating at FUMC; and an organ concert featuring Morgan and Abbington at 11 a.m., also at FUMC.

Anyone who wishes to attend any and all of the events may.