CANE RIDGE, Ky. (7/2/09) — Musicians from several Central Kentucky congregations came together on Saturday, June 27, to fill Cane Ridge Meeting House with joyous sounds of old time hymns and gospel music. For the more than 100 attendees at the annual Cane Ridge Day, it was easy to visualize a warm summer worship service in the 1800’s in the two centuries old log church.
John Opsota, senior minister of First Christian Church, Frankfort, Ky., and director of the Kentucky Men’s Chorus, took the attendees back to the early days of the Meeting House when it served as a place of worship on the Kentucky frontier.
Opsota noted that no one knows exactly what music was like in the Meeting House in its early years, but probably worshippers used hymns from popular hymn composers like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.
Congregations on the frontier did not have hymnals in the pews, but sometimes there were a few small personal hymn books owned by congregants. They contained only verses and did not have musical scores. Worshippers probably knew 10-15 tunes to which the verses were sung. Most worshippers could not read so the hymns were sung by “lining.” The minister would sing a line and then the congregation would repeat it.
Organs and pianos existed only in large urban churches and on the frontier, if hymns were accompanied by instruments, they probably were stringed instruments like dulcimers, fiddles or guitars. Most likely the singing was usually acappella.
Jane Johnson, church organist for Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington, and her husband, Bill, are currently recording a CD of “pump organ music” played on the antique reed organ in the Meeting House. Johnson played the organ to lead several hymns and also, selections from the forthcoming CD. She was accompanied by Magdalena Lehman, also of Crestwood, who played the recorder.
Opsota led singing to illustrate his presentations and The Winchester Men’s Quartet from First Christian Church, Winchester, Ky., sang several rousing gospel tunes. The Dulcimer Dames, a dulcimer group from Paris, Ky., played and sang folk tunes on their mountain dulcimers.
While attendees ate picnic lunches under the shade trees, the Backroom Bluegrass Band from Crestwood Christian Church, performed folk and bluegrass gospel tunes.
After lunch Curator James Trader gave a “State of the Ridge” report, saying that in the past year, the Meeting House trustees were pleased to make the grounds and the Meeting House more accessible to persons with physical challenges by widening sidewalks, adding ramps and smoothing walkways inside the shrine. Painting on the Shrine is underway and he praised volunteer work groups who donate their energies to help maintain the grounds. Plans also are underway to widen the entrance and exit to the grounds to accommodate large modern buses.
Afternoon music continued with the Jubilee Singers. a women’s gospel ensemble from Bridgeport Christian Church, Frankfort, Ky. The group has enjoyed a ministry of music for 17 years.
The Backroom Bluegrass Band, joined by the other performers, led a grand finale of music that closed the day in celebration.