"W'" is for Walker, William [1809-1875]

Nov 20, 2017

Credit SC Public Radio

"W'" is for Walker, William [1809-1875]. Teacher, composer, author. In 1835, the man known as "Singing Billy" Walker published Southern Harmony, a shaped-note hymnal using a four-shape [fa-so-la] system. The shaped-note style is a simplified musical notation developed to make it easier for untrained congregations to sing in harmony without instrumental accompaniment. Shapes [triangle = fa; oval = so; rectangle = la; and diamond = mi] were added to the note heads to help singers find pitch within major and minor scales. Southern Harmony was immensely popular and sold more than 600,000 copies. The hymnbook included some of Walker's own compositions and the first publication of the tune "New Britain," with the words "Amazing Grace." William Walker's shaped-note style is still used today and the annual "Big Singing" in Benton, Kentucky attracts large crowds.