While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Jacinta Rivera

SOUTHWEST TEXAS CONVENTION. Established on April 28, 1900, at the Round Top School in McMahan, Texas, as the South Union Singing Convention, the Southwest Texas Convention (also known as the Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention) is held at the Bethel Primitive Baptist Church in McMahan during the first fifth Sunday weekend of each spring.

The Southwest Texas Convention features what is known as sacred harp music, which is religious folk music sung a capella in four-part harmony and using a Sacred Harp songbook. Sacred harp conventions, which are held throughout the country, typically are community-based social events that attract participants from all age groups. Sacred harp music originated as part of the singing-school movement in New England during the late 1700s. It quickly spread across America, especially throughout the rural South.

The name “sacred harp” comes from Benjamin Franklin White’s tunebook called The Sacred Harp, which was first published in 1844. White continued to revise this book until his death in 1879, and others would add to it over the years. Currently there are two books which are most commonly used in sacred harp singing. The first is The B.F. White Sacred Harp, which was revised by W.M. Cooper and is most often used in Texas. The second is the 1991 edition of The Sacred Harp. The repertoire of sacred harp singing includes four basic styles: English and European psalms from approximately 1550–1850; songs by American composers, especially from New England, written between 1770–1810; tunes composed or arranged by southern American composers from 1810–1900, “including many adaptations of popular or traditional songs, marches, dance tunes, and camp-meeting spiritual songs”; and songs written by twentieth-century composers based on these earlier styles.

Although the Southwest Texas Convention is one of the oldest and best-known in Texas, there are also sacred harp conventions held regularly in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. In addition, sacred harp music is celebrated outside of the United States in Canada and the United Kingdom.


History and Record of South Union and Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention (http://historical.texasfasola.org/swtexas/swt_history.html), accessed August 23, 2015. Sacred Harp Singing in Texas (http://www.texasfasola.org/), accessed August 23, 2015. Warren Steel, “Sacred Harp Singing FAQ” (http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~mudws/faq/), accessed August 23, 2015.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jacinta Rivera, "SOUTHWEST TEXAS CONVENTION," accessed July 10, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xfs01.

Uploaded on May 27, 2015. Modified on August 24, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...