Gospel influences on Quartet: Gospel Period


What is Jubilee Quartet? It is an artistic form with unique history and expression that has originated in the mid-1800’s. It was an outgrowth of the African American university singing movement. It is named Jubilee quartet because of its nature, characteristics and its performance style. Quartets as a whole have gone through different periods. The period that will be discussed in this post is the gospel period and how it formed into the gospel quartet. This post will discuss it’s influences during the 1940’s and 1950’s, and it will discuss it’s influences today. 

How jubilee quartet transitioned into the gospel quartet

Quartet music had experienced changes in the 1940’s due to the increased commercial success of the already established and developed gospel music. It has turned into the “gospel quartets” when their performances reflected the characteristics of the gospel genre. Instruments enhanced and often had replaced bass and most were led by spirit performance style. This became extremely popular because most groups received emotion filled responses from the audience, this is what mainly caused the transition.

Gospel influence on Quartets(1940's-1960's)

Early jubilee quartets had mainly sang without instruments but during this period instruments began being introduced and they were beginning to replace the bass singers in quartet groups. Some groups even experimented with the piano and the organ. As instrument experimentation began to grow bigger more voices were added rather than the traditional four but it would only go up to six voices and no further. During this era lead singers started to incorporate vibrato, shouting vocals, falsetto, and timbre changes. Personal testimonies were also added as well to provide a more powerful performance. This became the standard with many gospel quartets. 

The Golden Gate Quartet along with other groups started using a double bass.

The pilgram jubilees bass singer Kenny Madden quit and they were forced to find an alternative to keep the bass, so they began having to use instruments. The double bass and guitar bass began to place of the vocal bass. Now most present day gospel quartets barely have a core vocal bass singer. 

Gospel Influence on Quartets today

As stated earlier it is rare for quartets in this present day to utilize a bass singer. Instead most use even more instruments to back up their singing. Gospel Quartets are starting to become increasingly common and along with their use of instruments many are starting to utilize multiple variations of harmony and singing traditions. Today there are gospel quartet parades and conventions held and in most churches today Gospel Quartets are utilized.  The influence of Gospel in quartets is continual and probably will forever influence musical gospel groups for a lifetime. 


Video example of Gospel Quartet today

Works Cited

Burnim,M.V.,& Maultsby, P.K.(2015). African American music: An introduction. New York: Routledge.



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