The joy of singing Sacred Harp

Story highlights

  • Photographer Johnathon Kelso started singing Sacred Harp music in 2010
  • The a capella music, based on a 19th-century hymnbook, has flourished in the South

(CNN)Anyone can sing Sacred Harp music, says photographer Johnathon Kelso, who started singing it himself just a few years ago.

"You can come to a singing and totally be tone-deaf, and we will never hear you because we sing so loud," said Kelso, who is based in Atlanta. "It's a beautiful place for anyone to come."
Movies such as "Cold Mountain" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" have brought the genre to the forefront in recent years. The a capella (voice-only) music is named after "The Sacred Harp," a 19th-century hymnal that was printed in shape notes to make it easier for everyday people to read music.
    People have been singing these hymns in the South for more than 150 years, but Kelso says the tradition is non-denominational and open to everyone in the community.