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Singin’ Billy Walker Shape Note Singing – March 19th @ Wofford – SC Hall of Fame Induction March 28th at Myrtle Beach

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“Singin’ Billy” Walker Shape-Note Singing set for March 19
Event at Wofford College free, open to public

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Shape-note singers from around the Southeast will gather again at Wofford College on Saturday, March 19, for their annual tribute to Spartanburg resident William “Singin’ Billy” Walker (1809-1875), the man who helped bring musical literacy to remote country churches around the South.

Walker put the words and music of the familiar “Amazing Grace” together in print for the first time. He also introduced “Wondrous Love,” “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” and other tunes still familiar today. On Monday morning, March 28, Walker will be inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach. Each year, two distinguished South Carolinians, one living and one deceased, are singled out for this honor. Walker also is featured on the new downtown Spartanburg Music Trail.

The Spartanburg event, held each year in the Burwell Building on Wofford’s campus, is free and open to the public. Jonathon Smith, of Knoxville, Tenn., will begin the day with a singing school lesson from 9 to 9:45 a.m. The group singing begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until mid-afternoon, with a break for lunch.

Admission is free, and no experience is necessary to participate.

The traditional shape-note, a cappella Appalachian folk hymn singing style dates back to colonial times and was featured in the film “Cold Mountain,” starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Attendees will sing from two early shape-note hymnals, “The Sacred Harp” (1844) by Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King, and William Walker’s “Christian Harmony” (1867).

Although he was born in Union County, S.C., Walker was a prominent citizen in Spartanburg throughout his lifetime, leading singing at First Baptist Church, operating a bookstore on Morgan Square, and spearheading improvements in education. He was among those who attended the laying of the cornerstone of Wofford College on July 4, 1851, and is buried at Magnolia Cemetery.

His “Southern Harmony,” first published in 1835 in the widely used four-shape or fa-so-la notation, reportedly sold more than 500,000 copies before the Civil War. After the Civil War, Walker published his “Christian Harmony” in seven-shape notation using the do-re-mi system. “Southern Harmony” continues in use in a famous Big Singing Day in Benton, Ky., which has been held for more than 100 years. “Christian Harmony” is used in singings in several states.

For information on the event, contact Dr. Harry Eskew at (478) 750-9968 or Dr.Doyle Boggs at Wofford, at 597-4182 or at

It should also be noted that you can visit his (Billy Walker’s) grave in Magnolia Cemetery and his sign on the newly-opened Spartanburg Music Trail in downtown Spartanburg (

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