You’re seated on a slatted bench in a wood-covered room; the side-panels have been raised, and a cool breeze blows in from the west. A ceiling fan hums overhead, and you may find yourself using a ‘funeral fan’ for the first time in a long time. The lights are dimmed, a church bell rings, and the cast takes over the stage. Suddenly you are surrounded by the sound of some of the best-prepared, best-presented arrangements of the great hymns and gospel songs of the last century. The singing and the stories carry you back to the first half of the 20th Century. The music is fun to listen to – but you realize it has a meaningful message. It speaks to you… down deep.
You laugh. You cry. You pat your foot. You sing along now and then. But mostly, you watch and listen! You remember the way you used to attend similar events in the past. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve ever been to a singin’ like this. It’s then that you realize this is so much more than a show… or a concert. On this afternoon in this place, your faith is renewed, and you leave this place a happier person than when you arrived.
That’s how it is here at Waxahachie’s Old Fashioned Singing. We hope you’ll join us.
The hour-and-forty-five minute staged show features the southern congregational songs* from the first half of the twentieth century performed by a 12-member vocal ensemble with live instruments, very much in keeping with what might have been heard here in this building’s first years. At times, you will be invited to join the singing of familiar favorites.
You’ll hear quality arrangements of several well-known hymns and gospel songs as well as some less-familiar tunes which enjoyed great popularity at another time in our rich history of congregational singing – especially in the southern United States.
This is not exactly a concert… it’s not a sing-along… it’s not just a show with a plot or story-line. Waxahachie’s Old Fashioned Singing is unique in its format and its setting. Our goal is to be musical, historical, spiritual – and great fun!
The onstage cast is made up primarily of auditioned singers and musicians from Ellis County and contiguous counties in North Texas... with a few from further away, two even Louisiana!
Built in Getzendaner Park in 1902, the earliest events in the historic octagonal Chautauqua Auditorium included the singing of sacred music.
Once again, those sounds are being heard on five weekends in 2011 with the first season of Waxahachie’s “ Old Fashioned Singing.”
Performances by Will Rogers (1927) and lectures by William Jennings Bryan (1909) were among the events hosted in the 1,500-seat Chautauqua Auditorium. In 1906 there was an exhibition of ‘moving pictures.’ Laced among the cultural events in this great performance hall were times of preaching, bible teaching… and sacred music.
From its construction in 1902 until 1930, hundreds of tents were pitched around the park for the annual “Chautauqua Summer Encampment and Assembly” - a tradition which has been re-instated as an annual one-day celebration.
For more information from the Chautauqua Preservation Society,