Jubilee Quartet

KaChelle Humphery

The Jubilee Quartet originated in the mid-1800s in the African American church singing Negro Spirituals and added their own spin on it which later evolved into gospel music by speeding up the tempo and adding both clapping and shouting. Early acapella groups were known as jubilee quartets and has a minimum of four voices or instruments and a maximum of six.  It usually is acapella or little instruments if there were any. Instruments included guitars, bass, and drums. African American quartets are not determined by the amount of people in the group but rather by the number of designated harmony parts.  Quartet tradition is a mix of African American and Western styles. These groups consisted of men whose style evolved into a sub-genre of gospel music. They sung in barbershops and competed in the streets to see who was the best quartet. Singing at a university level began after the Civil War when HBCUs were set up around the country for newly freed enslaved people as a part of Reconstruction.

Quartets are influenced by traditional folk spirituals and at the university level most songs are strophic. Strophic is a song form in which a single melody is repeated with different lyrics in each stanza. Jubilee quartets began to make money by singing in radio ads. Radios had been universal and was one of the few things that both African Americans and White people can afford. Universities sent quartets out to raise money for the universities by performing concerts. They also used quartets as propaganda in the war. These quartets later evolved into gospel music. Negro spiritual were more sacred and emotional. This was used as war propaganda during World War II. There were many jubilee quartet in this time zone. A couple popular groups include the Golden Gate Quartet and Fisk Jubilee Singers.

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