What is Jubilee Quartet? It is an artistic form with unique history and expression that has originated in the 1920’s. It was an outgrowth of the African American university singing movement. It is named Jubilee quartet due to its nature, characteristics and performance style. Jubilee Quartet can be divided into three periods. The period that will be discussed in this post is the gospel period and the creation of gospel music. This post will discuss it’s style during the 1940’s -1960’s, and it will discuss it’s influences today.
Quartet music has experienced changes in the 1940’s. It transformed into the “gospel quartets” when their performances reflected the characteristics of the gospel genre. Instruments enhanced and most were led by a spirit performance style. This became extremely popular because most groups received emotion filled responses from the congregation in the Pentecostal churches, this is what mainly caused the transition.
Early jubilee quartets mainly sang without instruments but during this period instruments began being introduced. 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. 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 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 guitar bass began to take the place of the vocal bass in this music group.
It is rare for quartets in this present day to utilize a bass singer. Instead most rely on their 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 it is likely that it will forever influence musical gospel groups for a lifetime.
Burnim,M.V.,& Maultsby, P.K.(2015). African American music: An introduction. New York: Routledge.