Art Deason, Centreville

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Art Deason (1997)

Arthur L. Deason (1910-2009) is a revered singing school master, composer and dedicated promoter of his family's tradition of Christian Harmony singing, the oldest of the active seven-shape traditions in the South. The Christian Harmony songbook, originally published in 1866 by South Carolinian William Walker, is now published in Alabama (1958 and 1994 revisions) largely through the efforts of Art Deason and his family. In fact, Deason chaired the 1994 revision committee and, with ASCA's assistance, obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund this worthy project.

 art deason leading his grandchildren

In his devotion to his cause of promoting the music and distributing the songbook, Deason communicates with Christian Harmony singers in other states and keeps up with their activities. However, it is clear to him and to music scholars that Alabama is the center of energy for this important genre of Southern sacred music.

Listen below to an Alabama Arts Radio program featuring Christian Harmony Singing

 

Art Deason has been recognized by ASCA's Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program as a master artist, which has helped him expand his singing school activities to at least nine counties in West Central and Northwest Alabama, the heart of Christian Harmony territory. He has also worked with ASCA on the annual Capitol City Shape Note Singing (an event that he conceived and continues to organize) where singers have gathered every summer in Montgomery for twelve years now to sing from the four shape-note hymnals published in Alabama: the Christian Harmony, the Sacred Harp (Denson Revision), the Sacred Harp (Cooper Revision), and the Colored Sacred Harp.

Art Deason Portrait by Mark Gooch