Proving that art can be the connective tissue in our fractured world, Anna Claire Vollers, 2017 ivoh Fellow and reporter for The Birmingham News and al.com, recently published a story on the old Southern tradition of Sacred Harp singing. The singing—described as more of an experience than a performance—brings people together across generations, ideology, and cultures.

Vollers says the story “grew out of reporting I did for my IVOH Restorative Narrative fellowship on Sand Mountain, a deeply traditional area of Northeast Alabama that’s weathered cultural and economic shifts in recent decades. IVOH encouraged me to look for the places and people who are building unity and bridging cultural divides.”

The piece delves into the people who are carrying this tradition forward, the families who travel great distances to gather and sing in community each year, and the music itself – unrehearsed and authentic.

The story is personal for Vollers: “I have family ties to Sand Mountain and I’ve heard Sacred Harp off and on throughout my life. It’s unlike any other church singing. Until I started talking to people who sing Sacred Harp, I don’t think I fully understood the power it’s had to bring people together from dissimilar cultures and backgrounds. Sand Mountain is a jumble of contradictions, often traditional and often surprising. To me, Sacred Harp embodies that ethos perfectly.”

Read the full story and watch video of the singing here.