Old tradition renewed: singing school coming

Charles Towler, music school instructor

Charles Towler, music school instructor

Cleveland First Baptist will host a singing school for children and adults from Oct. 31 through Nov. 4 at the church.

Children from first grade through high school will be divided into three age-graded classes, with a separate class for adults. The school is free, although an offering will be taken to cover its expenses.

The school is open to the entire community to anyone who would like to learn to sing hymns along with part singing and the fundamentals of music reading, according to music minister Chris Green, who is organizing the school. Those interested may also learn to lead and conduct music.

Classes will begin Sunday, Oct. 31, at 3 p.m. and conclude at 7:30 p.m. Supper will be provided. Monday through Thursday classes will meet from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and will feature classroom style instruction followed by a period of group singing.

Leading the school will be two professional instructors, both of whom have worked with the Alabama School of Gospel Music at Snead State Community College.

Charles Towler of Cleveland, Tenn., is the former music editor and director of music for the Tennessee Music and Printing Company, a gospel music publishing house. He has composed more than 300 published gospel songs, as well as Christmas musicals. He teaches church music schools throughout the year and is a summer instructor at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville.

Tracey Phillips of Nashville is an accomplished pianist, recording artist, and singing school accompanist throughout the Southeast. She has been a featured artist for the Bill Gaither Homecoming Series and the National Quartet Convention. She produces and arranges music and performs in a distinctive gospel piano style.


To register for the class, please provide the following information for each person who wishes to attend: name, age, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and church affiliation. Also specify if you play a musical instrument and if you direct music at your church. Mail to Chris and Pam Green, 1515 Barwick Road, Blountsville, AL 35031, or e-mail to cgreen@otelco.net.
You may also call (205) 429-3210.

In years past, the singing school was an annual event, held daily for two weeks at a church in nearly every community each summer. For generations in Blount County and across the South, many children learned to sing and to read music in such schools. It was a skill that formed the basis of church choirs right up to the present.

But many of those children are now retiring from the choirs where they have sung faithfully for years. The singing schools gradually faded after the 1960s, so the art of soprano/alto/tenor/bass harmony singing has faded as well. There are few new recruits to replace the singing school graduates from decades past.

Reviving the tradition

“What this school hopes to do is to revive the gospel music tradition in this area by teaching the fundamentals once again,” Green said. “In the last 20 years fewer and fewer people are able to read music, just as the number of people able to play piano is decreasing.

“We can’t give a full music education in five days, but this may be the start of an annual event where we can begin to reverse what we’ve lost,” Green continued. “This will be a school for beginners. If you have basic knowedge of music, it will be a refresher course. One of the best ways you can learn harmony singing is to listen to people who are doing it. So, we also want to have some people there who can sing and teach by example.

“I want to emphasize that this school is open to people from other churches in the community. It’s to learn music, but it’s also to promote fellowship. So, it really is for everyone,” he said.