The “Red Back:” America’s Best-Loved Hymnal offers visitors a look at the history and impact of the beloved “Red Back” Church Hymnal.
The Church Hymnal, famously referred to as the “Red Back,” has been a standby in the Southern Gospel music tradition for more than six decades. On November 5, 2015 at 6 PM the Museum Center at 5ive Points unveiled a new permanent exhibition entitled “The Red Back:” America’s Best-Loved Hymnal. The exhibit explores the local history of the Red Back from its development and first printing right here in Cleveland to its widespread adoption and continuing influence on Christian music. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about influential figures in the history of the Red Back, the unique and easy-to-learn shape note system it uses, and the gritty, industrial mechanics of its publication and production.
The exhibit is packed with content for learners of all ages. An interactive touchscreen offers commentary by local Gospel musicians on the history of the Red Back. Visitors can hear from singing school veteran Charles Towler, former Homeland Harmony Quartet member Jack Clark, and others. An integrated listening station allows those unfamiliar with the Red Back’s music to listen to some of its most famous songs. A hands-on shape note activity introduces visitors to the basics of shape note music, and a fully functioning linotype machine and proofing press help visitors learn just how much time and effort went in to publishing a book like the Red Back in 1951.
Major funding for “Red Back:” America’s Best-Loved Hymnal is provided by The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and from Church of God International Offices, First Baptist Church, North Cleveland Church of God, Pathway Press, and Aubrey and Michele Preston. Additional funding provided by the Bradley County Historical and Genealogical Society, John and Cathy Clark, and First United Methodist Church. Exhibit support also provided by the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center and Lee University.