Singers Glen, Virginia

Singers Glen, VA is a small community in the Shenandoah Valley about 8 miles west of Harrisonburg just off US Route 33 near Shenandoah National Park. Originally called Mountain Valley, it was renamed Singers Glen in 1860 when a post office was established. Situated in one of the most beautifully scenic areas of the Shenandoah Valley, this small community is remarkable for being the birthplace of Southern Gospel music and for being the site of the publication of the oldest continually published hymnal in America.

Panoramic view of Singers Glen, VA

In 1804, Joseph Funk built a log house in what would later become Singers Glen. Originally from Pennsylvania, Joseph was the grandson of the first Mennonite Bishop in the United States (Henry Funck). In 1816, Joseph Funk published a little book of Choral-Music in nearby Harrisonburg. Later in 1832, Funk established the first Mennonite printing house in the United States at Singers Glen and started printing a singing school manual which he entitled, Genuine Church Music (later to become Harmonia Sacra -- pronounced locally with a "long A" as in "sacred"). Still in print today, Harmonia Sacra is the oldest continually used hymnal published in America. Funk also started a singing school at Singers Glen and began training young men of "high moral character." Joseph Funk died in 1862 and his grave is located in the cemetary at Singers Glen.

Joseph Funk's grave stone located in the Singers Glen community cemetery.
Funk's grave is located in the far back of the cemetery (which is the oldest part).
In recent years his grave stone has become unattached from its base and is now laying face up in the position shown (June, 2001).
Funk family members are in the process of having the stone restored.

Also see: Ananias Davisson

After his death, two of Funk's grandsons, Aldine S. Kieffer and Ephraim Ruebush took over Funk's publishing and printing business and started producing new hymn collections for Sunday schools, revival and camp meetings, and home gatherings. These new collections proved to be very popular and lucrative, consequently establishing the Ruebush-Kieffer Publishing Company as one of the earliest and most successful publishers of gospel songs.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about compiling and printing a collection of hymns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the early 1800's. Many such collections were printed in Winchester and Harrisonburg between about 1815-1860 (for example, the first Southern shaped-note tunebook, Kentucky Harmony, was printed at Harrisonburg in 1816). What makes this collection (Harmonia Sacra ) and this location (Singers Glen) of particular interest:

  • Harmonia Sacra contains the first printing of FOUNDATION ("How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord") -- originally called PROTECTION.
  • Joseph Funk also established a singing school at Singers Glen for the teaching of music to young men.
  • Joseph Funk's 2 grandsons, Aldine Kieffer and Ephraim Ruebush transferred Funk's printing house and singing school from Singers Glen to Dayton, VA in 1878 and established one of the most successful gospel music publishing companies in America, the Ruebush-Kieffer Publishing Co. In addition, they formed an alliance with Shenandoah Seminary in 1879 which eventually evolved into Shenandoah Conservatory of Music (now Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA).
  • James D. Vaughan studied music at the normal school established by Ruebush and Kieffer at Dayton in the late 1800's and went on to establish his own publishing house in Lawrenceburg,TN -- the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company.
  • James D. Vaughan became a very successful gospel music publisher, establishing offices in several southern cities including Jacksonville, TX. The manager of the Jacksonville office, Virgil O. Stamps, went on to establish his own publishing house, the Stamps-Baxter Publishing Company.
  • Together, these three publishing companies -- (1) Ruebush-Kieffer, (2) James D. Vaughan, and (3) Stamps-Baxter were the primary sources for what is now called Southern Gospel music in the shaped-note tradition.

This is somewhat ironic, because Joseph Funk originally compiled Genuine Church Music specifically to counteract the influence of the rhythmical “fuging tune” which had become so popular in the 4-shape FA-SO-LA tradition. Believing that these rambunctious arrangements were improper for “GENUINE” worship, he compiled a collection of stately choral music which he believed to be more well suited to the conservative tastes of the Mennonite congregations [Eskew/McElrath, Sing With Understanding]. What would Joseph Funk think if he heard the rhythmical strains of one of the popular Southern Gospel quartets singing throughout the south today?

See Faceplates, Prefaces and Indexes of Genuine Church Music and Harmonia Sacra (1832 - 1866)

See Harmonia Sacra (maintained by James Nelson Gingerich)

See Harmonia Sacra Music (in PDF file format) - the complete (new) 25th edition of Harmonia Sacra: viewable and downloadable.

see Shape-Note Singing in the Shenandoah Valley by David Warren Steele (address delivered to the Singers Glen, VA Music and Heritage Festival, August 16, 1997).

See "Shape-Note Hymnody in the Shenandoah Valley" (1966) by Harry Eskew, doctoral dissertaion, Tulane University.

See Joseph Funk: the Man and His Accomplishements by Dale MacAllister (2001).

See Joseph Funk: Father of Song in Northern Virginia by John W. Wayland (probably early 1940's).

See Folk Hymns of the Shenandoah Valley (from the Virginia Cavalcade, Autumn 1956).

See Singers Glen: An Historic Place; A Walking Tour (prepared by Martha B. Caldwell, Caroline T. Marshall, and J. Robert Swank. Edited by Dale MacAllister, 1977).

See Virginia's Tradition of Harmonia Sacra Sings: 'No frequency of use can wear out these venerable airs' (Gospel Herald, August 2, 1994).

See Singers Glen: An Opera in a Prologue and Two Acts by Alice Parker (program notes from a performance, August, 1994)

Harmonia Sacra Singings in the Shenandoah Valley, 2001 (although this list of singings is for 2001, the schedule is generally followed every year):

January 1, 2001 - New Years Day - Weavers Mennonite Church, 7:00 p.m. Held every year since 1903. On US route 33 west of Harrisonburg about 2.5 miles. The church is a large gray stone building on the left of the road immediately left of the WSVA radio station entrance.

February 11, 2001 - Second Sunday - Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center, 4:00 p.m. in the Detwilder Chapel, upper level of the guilding to the right of the main entrance to the retirement center on Virginia Ave. (Rt. 42) on the north edge of Harrisonburg.

April 15, 2001 - Easter Sunday - Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, 7:00 p.m. From Interstate 81, take the James Madison University/Port Republic Road exit. Go west (into town) about one mile, through the first traffic light (following Maryland Ave.) and cross two sets of railroad tracks. Turn left at the next traffic light onto High Street. The church is about 1.5 miles on the left side of the road. It stands on a hill off the road, but there is a sign on High Strett shrotly after you pass a car wash on the left.

May 6, 2001 - First Sunday - Trissel's Mennonite Church, 7:00 p.m. small sing atone of the oldest Mennonite churches in the Valley. Take Hwy 42 north of Harrisonburg toward Dayton. Turn left onto Hwy 809 about 7 miles after you leave the Harrisonburg city limits. Go about 2 miles to Hyw 752 and turn right. The church is soon on your right.

July 1, 2001 - First Sunday - Dayton Mennonite Church, 4:00 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. with carry-in-fellowship meal at 5:30 p.m. First annual singing in Dayton Virginia. The church is on the east side of Hwy 42 just south of the town of Dayton (which is south of Harrisonburg about 8 miles).

August 5, 2001 - First Sunday - Old Hamburg Church, 10:00 a.m., dinner on the grounds followed by afternoon singing. The most unique of the Valley sings, held in a 165 year old log meeting house with excellent acoustics. From Interstate 81, take the New market exit (US 211) and drive east over the mountain. After crossing the Shenandoah River, turn north (left onto Hwy 766 and go a mile or so to the small village of Hamburg, west of Luray. The old church is on the left.

September 2, 2001 - First sunday - Bethel Mennonite Church, 10:00 a.m., dinner on the grounds followed by afternoon singing. Bethel is located west of Broadway, VA on Hwy 613. From Harrisonburg, take Hwy 42 north to Broadway (about 10 miles), then take Hwy 259 west (left) toward the WVa state line. After about 2-3 miles, turn north (right) on Hwy 613. The church is 3-4 miles from 259.

October 7, 2001 - First Sunday - Singers Glen, VA - the Home of the Harmonia Sacra. Possible late afternoon singing in the Community Center (old school house on the south edge of the village of Singers Glen). Contact information may be listed here later.

© 2001 Smith Creek Music

Site last updated: March 1, 2014