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Christians gather for the 2017 Diana Singing.
Photo via dianasinging.com

‘What a Gathering’: Diana Singing returns after three years

Thanks to a group of campers, the annual Tennessee singing event was ready for more than 2,500 people after years of COVID-19 cancellations.

CORNERSVILLE, Tenn. — It might have been another victim of the pandemic.

For the first time since 1969, the Diana Singing was canceled in 2020 and again in 2021, for both its June and September events.

Related: ’Tis midnight, and in Diana, Tennessee …

Might people just get used to not going? How many of the regular singers died of COVID? Would high gas prices be an insurmountable obstacle?

These and other questions troubled the group of volunteers who camped for several days in a grassy field in Middle Tennessee to mow the tall grass, to scour the ham shed, small shops and restrooms, to remove mold from the song books that had been packed away in unair-conditioned sheds for nearly three years, and to share the food and fellowship with old friends who had been meeting there for years or even decades.

Campers gather at the site of the Diana Singing ahead of the 2022 event.

Campers gather at the site of the Diana Singing ahead of the 2022 event.

The work got done. New-ish donated pews were arranged, old pews pressure washed. The gift shop was reorganized. The ham shed was brought up to health department standards, and the trucks were unloaded when the meats and buns arrived. The parking lot was groomed and lined, ready for the crowd to come, and light bulbs reinstalled in the singing shed.

Supplies were donated by campers, including the toilet paper and paper towels in the restrooms. And the truth is, several people had already spent many hours during weekends for the past several months.

New donated pews were arranged and old pews pressure washed for this year’s Diana Singing.

New donated pews were arranged and old pews pressure washed for this year’s Diana Singing.

Who are these campers?  They are not people you would usually call on to do this hard work. Nearly all are retired. Most are in their late 60s or 70s or even their 80s. A few depend on walkers or wheelchairs, and a few more wear braces.

They come in motor homes, bumper pulls, fifth wheels and truck campers, and they drive pickup trucks, vans, and motorcycles. Their commonality is that they love the Diana Singing.

Good dreams are being discussed for the future. Adjacent acreage has been acquired by an individual who plans to hold it for eventual purchase by the Diana Singing board. Necessary upgrades to the aging campground are being drawn up. The church building where the singing started in 1969, now more than 100 years old, has been officially deeded to the Diana Singing and will become our responsibility for upkeep.

Diana Singing campers share a fellowship meal.

Diana Singing campers share a fellowship meal.

These dreams depend on two factors:  that enthusiasm and attendance at the singings continue to grow, and that the financial support is available for these extraordinary expenses. For the first time, the singers heard a plea for financial donations; the opening response was encouraging. It will be possible to donate through easyTithe, on the Diana Singing website, or by personal contact with any board member.

So, did the Diana Singing survive the pandemic?

The answer is a resounding yes! On Friday night, June 10, more than 2,500 people came from at least 18 states, and Saturday night brought several hundred more for a shorter singing, including a couple from Australia. A larger-than-normal number of first-timers were “sworn in” as official Diana Singers.

The list of song leaders, who each led two verses of their chosen hymns, was as long as ever, and the singing lasted until nearly 2:00 a.m. The volunteer sandwich wrappers and window waiters were kept busy, and the gift shop sold several hundred dollars worth of craft and donated items.

And, oh, the singing!  Many said it was the best ever. It is available for free download on DianaSinging.com, where you can find contacts, history and information on what is happening next.

If the Lord wills, come the second weekend of September, we’ll be doing it again. Put it on your calendar — we’ll save a camp spot for you.

ANNE BAILEY is a retired music teacher, hymn writer, realtor, office manager, legal assistant, account executive, author and great-grandmother of 16. She and her husband worship with the Mayfield Church of Christ in Saltillo, Miss.

Filed under: A cappella singing congregational singing COVID-19 Diana Singing National Opinion pandemic Perspective post-pandemic Top Stories Views

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