The Four Harmonies

The jubilee period occurred from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century so black colleges could gain monetary support for financial hardships. The name quartet is not defined by the number of individual voices but by the four harmonies that are sung. Jubilee quartets have a minimum of four voices and a maximum of six voices singing acapella and maybe with a limited number of instruments. The transitional period was in 1930-1945 when radio came out and was available to almost everyone.

Jubilee quartets have been used by radio stations and popular companies to advertise products over the radio because marketers knew that their message would reach the vast majority of the population so they would sing a jingle about a company’s product. So, when people heard the ad, they were compelled to purchase the product. The commodification of quartets led to radio broadcasting, touring, and a crossover phenomenon.

During the 19th century, negative images also came about in the form of minstrel jubilee quartets. African Americans put on their own minstrel shows in comparison to the whites in black face doing shows. They profited from entertaining just like the white americans. In the twentieth century, the quartet evolved into a sub-genre of gospel music and assisted with the evolution of secular and sacred music.

Types of jubilee quartets

  • University
  • Minstrel
  • Community-based
  • Shape note/sacred harp
  • Barbershop Community

Popular Jubilee Quartets

  • The mills brothers 1934
  • The golden gate quartet 1940
  • The mighty clouds of joy 1964