Singing in the Spirit: African-American Sacred Quartets in by Ray Allen

By Ray Allen

Attracts on box recordings and interviews with dozens of neighborhood ny singers to bare an exciting international the place faith and artwork merge.

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315-317. 15. Pearl Williams-Jones, "Afro-American Gospel Music: A Crystallization of the Black Aesthetic," Ethnomusicology 19 (1975): 373. 16. For more on this revitalization process, see Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness, pp. 174-189. 17. Doug Seroff notes that the Famous Blue Jay Singers, the Kings of Harmony, and the Soul Stirrers were the first to experiment with "hard" gospel vocal techniques and theatrical devices during the 1930s. See Seroff, "On the Battlefield," pp. 42-43. 18.

But on occasion they did sing in the larger middle class black Manhattan churches, including St. Mark's Methodist, Abyssinian Baptist, and Salem Methodist. 32 Marshall Cole, an original member, recalls that the Utica Jubilee Singers presented a variety of traditional spirituals, jubilee songs, and hymns, as well as secular plantation songs, work songs, and occasional blues or minstrel-derived numbers. 33 The recordings the group made during the late 1920s and early 1930s are characterized by sweet barbershop harmony with occasional hints of rhythmic syncopation.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, New York has been a prominent center of African-American culture. Bolstered by the rapid influx of southern migrants during World War I, New York's African-American population quickly grew to the largest of any city in the United States. Not surprisingly, the city's rapidly expanding black church community nurtured a nascent quartet scene that blossomed in the 1930s. By 1940 New York had established its reputation as the jubilee quartet capital of the country.

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