“Barking Like Dogs”: The Camp Meeting

by

edited from http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org and http://www.timeriksenmusic.com

Before old time music festivals there were camp meetings.

“During the Second Great Awakening, people from all sorts of backgrounds—Irish, Native American, African—met and had these experiences in the wilderness with a new kind of American music,” Tim Eriksen recounts. “The camp meeting songs are the hidden grandparents of just about everything we listen to right now.” Eriksen evokes and tweaks that sound on tracks like “The Golden Harp,” (listen below) an early shape-note hymn with a beat that reminded Eriksen of the pounding pulse of good banjo tunes.

In these Great Awakening revivalist services music played a significant role.  Black and white music found a common ground in these services, especially in the outdoor camp meetings which functioned as religious, social, and recreational gatherings.  The sheer exhilaration of participating in a  revival with crowds of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events.  Sound familiar?

Camp meetings lasted up to five days and lasted through the day and night. Whites, blacks, men, women, and persons of all denominations took turns exhorting would-be converts. Attendees anticipated and had emotional experiences, with crying, trances, and exaltation.  Camp meetings induced sensational results: some observers described participants laughing out loud, barking like dogs, falling down as if dead, and experiencing “the jerks.” (Similar phenomena have been reported at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W. VA, particularly “falling down as if dead.”)

Tim Eriksen plays “The Golden Harp”:

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