Songbook Review: Convention Hallelujahs (Gospelfest Ministries)

In 1910, the first Southern Gospel male quartet was sent on the road by a songbook publisher, James D. Vaughan. For the following thirty or forty years, the genres of participatory convention singing and male quartet performance intersected so closely that they supported and were supported by the same business infrastructure and leading characters.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, this began to change, as a few groups found a level of popularity independent of songbook publishers’ sponsorships. The rise of the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen, All-night sings, and the Southern Gospel circuit helped complete this transition. For the last sixty or more years, though convention singing and convention songbook publishing has continued, it has existed as a largely separate and independent genre.

Partly for this historical reason, and partly because of a decline in musical literacy among casual and professional Southern Gospel singers, there are surprisingly few Southern Gospel songbooks released. In fact, the two best sellers are probably still the 1973 Great Inspirational Songs songbook (available from Springside) and the classic 1951 red-back Church of God Church Hymnal (available from the Kingdom Heirs).

With the publication of Convention Hallelujahs, we have a new entrant in the field. This songbook, published by Shawn Degenhart of GospelFest Ministries (available here), contains around fifty convention-style standards, as well as a half-dozen numbers too new to appear in either Great Inspirational Songs or the red-back. The selection is strong; if you were to purchase this songbook and learn every song, you would know at least half of the songs on most Southern Gospel table projects, and you would be reasonably conversant with the classics of our genre.

This, in fact, is probably the book’s strongest selling point. It’s not the most expansive collection; both of the two best-sellers have at least three times as many songs. It is more a collection of the very best, the songs every Southern Gospel fan should know.

 Song List: Turn Your Radio On; Look on the Brighter Side; Crown Him King; Old Camp-Meeting Days; Blest Be the Tie; Looking for a City; Farther Along; The Old Country Church; I’ll Meet You in the Morning; Give the World a Smile Each Day; I’m Free Again; When They Ring the Bells of Heaven; Everybody Will Be Happy Over There; Oh Come Angel Band; Oh the Glory Did Roll; Just Over in the Gloryland; I’m Winging My Way Back Home; Well Done, My Child; Somebody Loves Me; Won’t it be Wonderful There; Sweeter Each Day; Beautiful Star of Bethlehem; The Love of God; Canaanland is Just in Sight; How Beautiful Heaven Must Be; I’m Gonna Take a Ride; Just a Little While; I’m Gonna Stay on the Jericho Road; Just As I Am; What a Meeting in the Air; I’m Living in Canaan Now; If We Never Meet Again; Heaven Will Surely Be Worth it All; Mansion Over the Hilltop; The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming; Resurrection Ground; That Glad Reunion Day; The Old Gospel Ship; The Dearest Friend I Ever Had; Enough For Me; I’ve Got that Old-Time Religion in My Heart; Rock of Ages; What a Day That Will Be; Pass Me Not; When Morning Sweeps the Eastern Sky; He is Mine and I Am His; I Feel Like Travelin’ On; Getting Ready to Leave This World; Nothing But the Blood; Did You Ever Go Sailin’; Nearer, My God, to Thee; The Heavenly Parade; A Beautiful Life; Hallelujah! We Shall Rise; The Eastern Gate; I’ll Fly Away; Jesus, Hold My Hand; A Tiny Little Baby; The Sweetest Song I Know; Lord, I’m Coming Home; Where the Soul Never Dies; He Set Me Free; I’m Too Near Home (To Go Back Now); I’m Bound For That City; Doxology; Hallelujah; In the Sweet Forever; Amazing Grace; Heaven’s Jubilee; Precious Memories; Some Glad Day.

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24 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. What a wonderful “songbook” (an affectionate term from my youth)! Even without so many other great songs, one of them alone would make me want my church to purchase these, and it is “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”. It’s our favorite Christmas song (what else…it’s SG!), and it’s not in the Heavenly Highways or the Church of God “red book”, both of which we already have. GREAT call on the part of the person who chose all these wonderful songs.

    • Well, it’s recent enough that I suppose the song may have been written since the 40s!

      • “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” by Alger Pace and R. Fisher Boyce appears to have been copyrighted in 1940. I thought it was a much later song as I first heard in at the 1973 NQC when the Speers sang it.

    • Thank you, Miss Dianne! The book first came about almost 10 years ago in response to a concert series I started in 1999. We began a homecoming-type concert that brought together church choir members from all over central Illinois to sing these old classics. (It was this summer concert that has become the “flagship” of our ministry’s events). This book featured many of the classics that we had done over the years and was intended for folks to sing along with us during the concert. It’s done quite well–Ben’s used a couple years at Stamps-Baxter and is just a fun book!

  2. Came across some more info on Beautiful Star. One site said “In 1940, the Vaughan Company published Boyce’s song “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” The song was printed in the company’s song-book, Beautiful Praise. Later, the song would be republished in Vaughan’s Favorite Radio Songs.” Various sites mention Boyce, a dairy farmer, as the sole writer although Pace, who worked for Vaughan, also gets credit on the sheet music. Writer Charles Wolfe said first recording of the song might have been by the Jack Daniel Quartet on their own label.

    • The song was recorded by the John Daniel Quartet; not the Jack Daniel Quartet, and it was on their own label.

  3. Is this songbook in Shape Notes, Daniel?

    • I’m sorry – it’s been a while since I wrote the review, and I don’t recall. On top of everything else, pretty much all my earthly possessions are packed away for a move to a different apartment today. If you would, shoot me a message or post another comment here in about a week, and I should be able to check then!

      • I believe I have a copy of that. It is likely at church where most of mine are. I will try to look tomorrow if I think about it.

    • Yes it is. I own a copy as it was the standard issue for Stamps-Baxter school last year. Really cool collection.

    • Yes, it is in shape notes!

      • Thanks so much! I immediately ordered the book when I read this review. Thanks for the review Daniel! I was going to own it whether it had shape notes or not but I am SO excited that it is written in shape notes. I am in the process of learning them and loved the song selection!

      • I’m thrilled you ordered it, and you’re welcome for the review!

  4. Where can I finf a copy of this song book?

  5. I like this review and hope to see more like this. 😀

    Incidentally, I immediately purchased the book from GospelFest Ministries when I read your review on Friday. Mr. Degenhart emailed me and said it would ship out today. Yay!

  6. I have an orhinal song book entitle Voices for Jesus by James D. Vaughan published in 1910. It had belonged to my great grandmother who live to get 96 ers old who pat away 15 years ago, Is the book worth anything.

  7. Does anyone know when and who wrote the song “Looking for a city” ,

    Thanks so much.

    • W. Oliver Cooper and Marvin P. Dalton, somewhere around the ’40s, give or take about 5 years.

    • Just go to the Redback and turn to page 18! 🙂

      • I’d venture to guess that over half of this site’s readers don’t have a Redback. I hope that most of this site’s readers, at the very least, know what one is! 😀

  8. Hi Daniel,
    I’ve been seeking the lyrics to a song called :Look on
    the brighter side.It’s from a Bill Gaither cd called:
    Sweetest song I know.Can you help me get them,I would really appreciate it!
    Thank you kindly & God bless

    • I’m sorry, I do not have those available. (Also, copyright law doesn’t permit me to post copyrighted lyrics online.)