Jubilee quartets originated in the mid-1800s and consisted of African American religious musical artists. The name was derived from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, which was a student-organized group at Fisk University that performed Negro spirituals. Male jubilee quartets were formed within the choir and often replaced some ensembles. Jubliee quartets became popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when most black colleges and universities organized musical groups.
Jubilee quartets consisted of a minimum of four and a maximum of six voices, that were mostly men, singing a four-part harmony. Early jubilee quartet music consisted of close harmonies, formal arrangements, and “flatfooted” style singing that developed from European music. The often performed in community areas such as barbershopsThese characteristics soon evolved when jubilee quartet style music audiences shifted from universities to black churches.
At a time where radio broadcasting was new, Jubilee quartets used the airways as a form of black programming. During WWII the Golden Gate Quartet released a song that acted as a form of propaganda since radio boradcasting was not affected by the war. It was titled ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ WWII’. Which was written to praise Joseph Stalin, the governor of the Soviet Union during WWII, and his efforts against Adolf Hitler. This speaks to the social involvement of Jubilee Quartets
European Americans began to take Jubilee quartet style music as their own, using African American Jubilee artists for entertainment purposes. Jubilee quartet music is now present on Broadway and in concert for a capitalist benefit.
Jubilee Quartets lead to the development of Gospel music. Blues and Jazz beats were added to Negro spirituals, along with electric instruments that led to the creation of the gospel genre. Gospel music adopted many Jubilee quartet characteristics, including four-part and six-part harmonies and hand clapping.
Important performers include:
Golden Gate Quartet
Five Blind Boys