Edited by Azizi Powell
This post provides information about Black (African American) Gospel Quartet music and showcases nine examples of that music.
The content of this post is provided for religious, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all of the featured singers and other Black Gospel Quartet groups. Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.
INFORMATION ABOUT BLACK GOSPEL QUARTET MUSIC
"What most African Americans would identify today as "gospel" began in the early 20th century. The gospel music that Thomas A. Dorsey, Sallie Martin, Willie Mae Ford Smith and other pioneers popularized had its roots in the blues as well as in the more freewheeling forms of religious devotion of "Sanctified" or "Holiness" churches...
The most popular [African American religious singing]* groups in the 1930s were male quartets or small groups such as The Golden Gate Quartet, who sang, usually unaccompanied, in jubilee style, mixing careful harmonies, melodious singing, playful syncopation and sophisticated arrangements to produce a fresh, experimental style far removed from the more somber hymn-singing. These groups also absorbed popular sounds from pop groups such as The Mills Brothers and produced songs that mixed conventional religious themes, humor and social and political commentary. They began to show more and more influence from gospel as they incorporated the new music into their repertoire...
Golden age (1940s – 1950s)
The new gospel music composed by [Thomas] Dorsey and others proved very important among quartets, who began turning in a new direction. Groups such as the Dixie Hummingbirds, Pilgrim Travelers, Soul Stirrers, Swan Silvertones, Sensational Nightingales and Five Blind Boys of Mississippi introduced even more stylistic freedom to the close harmonies of jubilee style, adding ad libs and using repeated short phrases in the background to maintain a rhythmic base for the innovations of the lead singers...
*The words in brackets are my addition to clarify this sentence
"Holiness" is a colloquial referent for Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) and other Pentecostal denominations. COGIC is predominately African American. Some people consider that referent to be disrespectful. “Holy Rollers”, another referent for COGIC and/or other Pentecostal church members- is even more disrespectful."...
Jubilee quartets were popular African-American religious musical groups in the first half of the 20th century. The name derives from the Fisk Jubilee Quartet, a group of male singers organized by students at Fisk University in 1871 to sing Negro spirituals, which had typically been sung by mixed choirs before then. Students at other historically black schools, such as Hampton Institute, Tuskegee Institute and Wilberforce University, followed suit.
The early jubilee quartets featured close harmonies, formal arrangements and a "flatfooted" style of singing that emphasized restrained musical expression and technique derived from Western musical traditions. Early quartets reinforced their respectable image by adopting uniforms that a university glee club might wear and discouraging improvisation.
In time, however, the popularity of the jubilee style spread from the universities to black churches, where quartets, singing before audiences with a tradition of enthusiastic response, began to absorb much of the energy and freedom of Gospel music coming out of Holiness churches. Groups such as the Golden Gate Quartet—originally named the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet—infused their performances of spirituals with the rhythmic beat of blues and jazz and gradually began including gospel standards written by Thomas A. Dorsey and others in their repertoire. The Gates and other jubilee quartets gained nationwide popularity through radio broadcasts, records and touring in the 1930s and 1940s.
Other groups, such as the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama (formally known as the Happyland Jubilee Singers) that had begun singing in the conventional jubilee style went further, creating the more improvisational and fervent style of quartet singing known as "hard Gospel". That new style largely eclipsed jubilee singing by the 1950s."...
These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest examples given first.
Example #1: "Vintage" Pilgrim Jubilees- An AGQC 2001 Hall of Fame Inductee
American Gospel Quartet Convention, Uploaded on Aug 11, 2008
In 2001 The legedary Pilgrim Jubilees American Gospel Quartet Convention Hall of Fame Inductees recognizing their music ministry for Jesus Christ.
Example #2: Golden Gate Quartet - Early Songs
SyberkaPL Uploaded on Feb 17, 2009
Songs from early [career].
1.Golden Gate Gospel Train (1937)
2.Rock My Soul (1938)
4.Ride Up In The Chariot (1941)
Example #3: Mighty Clouds of Joy - Nearer My God to Thee
saxypeanut77, Uploaded on Jun 9, 2009
Example #4: Fairfield Four
Film House Inc, Uploaded on Sep 17, 2009
The legendary Nashville a cappella gospel group, The Fairfield Four, was organized in 1921. Best known for their work in "O Brother Where Art Thou," they've been through a number of changes over the years. In this clip from a performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium there are even five of them.
Example #5: The Dixie Hummingbirds - Trouble in My Way (1952)
Tony Toons, Uploaded on Dec 12, 2009
Example #6: The Soul Stirrers - "I'm a Soldier"
shanachietube, Uploaded on Apr 6, 2010
The Soul Stirrers from HOW SWEET IT WAS a DVD/CD/Booklet set on the golden age of gospel from Shanachie Entertainment
Example #7: The Jubalaires - God Almighty's Gonna Cut You Down
upgrayeeed, Uploaded on May 21, 2010
Left to right: Orville Brooks, Ted Brooks, Caleb Ginyard and George McFadden.
[picture from vocalgroupharmony.com]
Example #8: "Too Close To Heaven" - By The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama
pannellctp, Uploaded on May 26, 2011
Example #9: The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi - Leaning On The Everlasting Arms
DasPackenvonBand, Published on Jan 17, 2014
(back row)Jimmy Carter(tenor), Lloyd Woodard(baritone), Jay T. Clinkcales(bass)
(front row)Willie Mincey(2nd lead)
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