Gospel & Sacred Music

Take a road trip to these points of interest, venues and festivals celebrating sacred music in Georgia.

Sacred music has always been part of the fabric of life in Georgia. Georgians B.F. White and E.J. King compiled and published the first Sacred Heart hymnal, which was instrumental in preserving shape note singing traditions. Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey helped shape Black gospel music, which has influenced so many other American music styles. Pioneering Southern Gospel artists and groups from Georgia include The HarmoneersHovie Lister and the StatesmenThe LeFevres and Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters. Georgia artists who top the charts in Gospel and Contemporary Christian music include Tasha CobbsCasting CrownsJamie Grace, Lecrae, Third Day and Chris Tomlin.

Below, use the itinerary to find festivals and more points of interest, and listen to music by local artists in the "Our Gospel Picks" playlist.

  • Points of Interest
    Thomas Dorsey Birthplace Choir - Diane Kirkland
  • Music Festivals
  • Points of Interest

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  • Music Festivals

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Points of Interest

1. Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers

Music played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, and two Albany students who grew up in the South Georgia congregational singing tradition were founding members of the influential SNCC Freedom Singers. Formed in 1962 to travel the country raising awareness and funds for the Movement, the original quartet included Bernice Johnson and Rutha Harris, daughters of Albany ministers, who helped adapt traditional hymns into freedom songs. Every Second Saturday, Rutha Harris, now 75, leads the Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers through an oral history presentation and singing of freedom songs.

2. Atlanta Sacred Harp

Dedicated to shape note singing in Georgia, Atlanta Sacred Harp is an information network of people who enjoy participating in and promoting singing from the Sacred Harp hymnal. Singings usually begin around 9:30 a.m. and go to 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. until everyone who wants to lead a song has a turn. The Georgia State Convention is held the fourth Sunday in March and the Saturday before; check Atlanta Sacred Harp’s website for the dates of sings in Atlanta, West Georgia, Northwest Georgia, Northeast Georgia and Augusta, Middle Georgia and South Georgia.

3. Old Stone Church

The Old Stone Church, formerly Chickamauga Presbyterian Church, was established in 1850, built from stone quarried nearby and restored in the 1980s. Currently the home of the Catoosa County Historical Society Museum, the church served as a hospital during the Civil War and was the site of an 1880s revival conducted by religious leader Dwight L. Moody and renowned singer Ira Sankey. It was also the first church in which the standard "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was performed after being finished nearby at the Magill family home.

Mentioned in this Itinerary

Music Festivals

1. AtlantaFest

The Christian music festival, which moved to Stone Rock Christian School in Locust Grove after several years at Stone Mountain, features three days of music and ministry. AtlantaFest performers have included LecraeNatalie GrantToby MacMercyMeJeremy Camp and more.

2. Atlanta Gospel Fest

Now called the AGF/ATL Healthcare & Music Festival, the August event features inspirational, gospel, jazz and R&B artists, plus a health and wellness pavilion.

3. Memorial Day Weekend Gospel Sing

For the 16th year in Carnesville, Indian Creek Baptist Church has hosted an outdoor gospel sing. Gainesville’s Karen Peck and New RiverMcKameys and Greater Vision are among the 2016 participating acts.

4. Sacred Sound Fridays

On the second Friday of each month (with the exception of October and December), Share America Foundation hosts Sacred Sounds in Ringgold, featuring vocal and instrumental performances and hosted by musician and actor Randall Franks, who played Officer Randy Good on the "In the Heat of the Night" television program.

5. Thomas A. Dorsey Birthplace and Gospel Heritage Festival

Villa Rica, the hometown of Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey, celebrates its native son the last Friday and Saturday of June with a festival in his name. Dorsey, who composed hundreds of gospel songs, including “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” is recognized as “The Father of Gospel Music.” The free event features jazz on Friday night and gospel music at the historic Mt. Prospect Baptist Church with the Thomas A. Dorsey Birthplace Choir on Saturday afternoon followed by Blues and BBQ at The Mill.

6. Union County Historical Society Friday Night Concerts

Gospel performers are among the country, bluegrass and old time musicians who perform every Friday, May through October, on the Town Square in Blairsville.

7. Jeff & Sheri Easter Homecoming

After almost seven decades and multiple generations participating, The Lewis Family, the “First Family of Gospel Bluegrass,” retired in 2009. Southern gospel stars Sherri Easter (daughter of Polly Lewis Copsey) and her husband Jeff, who performed with The Lewis Family for several years, are continuing the Homecoming concert tradition at The Lewis Family Homeplace every Mother’s Day Weekend in Lincolnton.