The Great Migration took place between 1910-1920, in which Blacks from rural areas of the South migrated to the North in an effort to receive better educational and social opportunities. As a result of this migration, Black communities created an influx of personal religious, social, and economic opportunities. As The Great Migration sparked change in multiple facets, Black people had more opportunities to create music that reflected the change in time.
As social constructs for Blacks changed, so did their musical construction of jubilee quartets by the 1930s. Many university and community quartet groups began to incorporate transformative elements into their performance collection. Some of these transformative elements include:
-free harmonic and vocal range
-a prominent beat
-the addition of a fifth singer
It was especially important for touring jubilee quartets to include a variety of music to their performance collection to ensure they were properly catering to their audience’s taste. For example, white audiences preferred minstrel music such as ‘Old Black Joe'(left) while Black audiences preferred old negro spirituals such as ‘Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’ (right). While many jubilee quartet groups knew the minstrel music they performed for white audiences was a mockery of themselves, they felt it had to be done in order to make money. These demeaning behaviors are unfortunately common amongst Black people, even today, as we struggle to create our own space in a white-dominate society.
In the 1940s, quartets began to incorporate guitars in an effort to compete with other touring quartet groups during quartet battles. These changes were influenced by the changes that were also present in Black churches. The transitional period of jubilee quartets allowed the groups to try out different musical techniques in order to distinguish themselves and build a fan base especially as battling and touring became popular.
Below you can hear the different styles of jubilee quartet music before, during, and after the transitional period.
The transitional period of jubilee quartets is fundamental because it developed as the Black communities in the North experienced an increase in religious, educational and social transformations which allowed them an opportunity to be creative musically by introducing elements such as such as harmonic vocal range, bass and soloists which can also be found in the Black Church. We can see how society directly impacted the musical elements present within each period of jubilee quartets as artists found their ‘niche’ and target audience within the music industry.