How did the congregation of Calpurnia's church sing their hymns without hymn-books?

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vkpteach's profile pic

vkpteach | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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They had one hymnal. Calpurnia's son, Zeebo (the town trash collector), was taught to read by his mother, and he uses the call and response technique. He'll sing a line or two from the hymnal, and the congregation repeats it. This episode in the novel highlights many important elements, not the least of which is what the children learn about Cal. That her son is literate is important. In addition, they get a first hand sense of the scale of poverty within the town.

charcunning's profile pic

charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Many hymns were sung using "call and response". In this type of singing, the choir leader and the choir sing a line of a song aloud and then the church congregation sings it back to them.

Also, most hymns are passed on from generation to generation, so it is also very likely that the congregation had the songs memorized because they grew up listening to them over the years.


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spencerd | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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The congregation did not have the funds to purchase the hymn-books that would be needed. As with tradition the songs have been passed down orally. Songs would change from written form and take on characteristics unique to an area.

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