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Jubilee Quartet – The Soul Stirrers

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Indisputably among the premier gospel groups of the modern era, the Soul Stirrers pioneered the contemporary quartet sound.

Jubilee Quartet - THE SOUL STIRRERS

Origin

Jubilee Quartets are popular African American vocal groups known for the nature of their repertoire and characteristic of performance. Singing in harmony, either a cappella style or with limited instrumentation, these groups usually were dominated by spirituals. The name derives from the Fisk Jubilee Quartet singers organized at Fisk University.

The Soul Stirrers

The Soul Stirrers origin dates back to 1926, in Trinity, Texas. Baritone singer Senior Roy Crain formed the quartet with a few of the teens that he attended church with. After one of the groups earliest performances, a member in the audience approached Crain to share how their act “stirred his soul” and thus the group took on the name the “Soul Stirrers”. The Soul Stirrers underwent many group member changes during their rise to fame. The most notable member to join their group at the height of their fame is the legendary singer Sam Cooke. With the addition of Sam Cooke the Soul Stirrers went on to have a major hit “Jesus Gave Me Water” and as a result of their growth in fame, the group soon came to be an series of idolized sex symbols. Lineup changes have continued to follow and the last notable reference of the group was in the 1990’s.

Elements

The Jubilee Quartet sound can be described as strophic, which is the idea of singing a single melody with repetitive song lyrics. The sound also had polyrhythm – several contrasting rhythms played or sung simultaneously. Often seen are gospel quartets which consist of male or female (most often male) ensembles of four to six voices singing close vocal harmonies, featuring lead singers and sometimes accompanied by instrumentals.

Conclusion & Influence

In time, the popularity of the Jubilee style spread from universities to African American churches, and quartets began singing in front of audiences that had a tradition of being enthusiastic in their response to performances. Though their performances are heavily spiritually infused, quartets gradually began including gospel standards and rhythmic beats from blues and jazz moving towards a now present conventional style of singing.

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