The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is rich in musical history. Here, local Mennonites played a significant role in the development of church music in the South.
The small town of Singers Glen was home to Joseph Funk in the mid-19th century. Joseph and his sons were instrumental in developing a shaped-note system that made four-part harmony accessible to the common people. (Their four-shape notation system was eventually replaced by the now popular seven-shape system.) They actively promoted this development with singing schools which they held throughout the area and which eventually spread into the surrounding counties and states.
In addition, they opened a printing press which included among its early projects the printing of a shaped note song book called “The Harmonia Sacra.” It is still commonly used in hymn sings throughout the central Shenandoah Valley and includes some hymns that have become very common in the Mennonite community.
Here's some Mennonite music enthusiasts gathered in Virginia for a Community Hymn Sing, sponsored by the Shenandoah Christian Music Camp and led by Brandon Mullet. Listen and enjoy the beautiful harmony that closes with eight parts in the last verse. The human voice is the finest of all instruments.