From Sacred to Secular Music: Jubilee Quartets

Origin and Characteristics

The Jubilee Quartet was a new genre of music following negro spirituals and folk music in the years from 1880 to 1969. There were three different periods of quartets; Jubilee quartet, transitional and gospel. Quartets consisted four to six people of a bass, tenor, alto and narrator.  Most quartets performed in suits or formal wear. Some quartets, such as Soul Stirrers and The Blind Boys of Alabama were of these groups. The jubilee period from 1880-1929 was close to the style of negro spiritual, but  in contrast was highly rhythmic. They also sung in harmonies. As time went on quartets transitioned into the transitional period from 1930 – 1945 between jubilee and gospel. During this time radio ads helped grow the popularity of the style of music. Quartets during this period quartets became popular and grew interest from the community and soon were performed in churches, which began the gospel period from 1946 – 1969. 

Important Musicians

Golden Gate Quartet

This quartet was formed in 1934 by four students at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Soul Stirrers

This jubilee quartet was formed in the early 1930s in Houston, Texas.

The Blind Boys of Alabama

This gospel group formed in 1939 in Talladega, Alabama. Through their career, which lasted for seven decades, they won five Grammys.

Social Implications, Commodification and Influences of Future Genres

Quartets was a foundational genre in the transition of change in African American music. It influenced the new genres of blues and jazz. The quartet period changed the social attitude and uplifted the community of blacks. This genre opened a space for African Americans to have a place to share their musical talents and receive the compensation and credit they always deserved. However, there were still injustices placed on African Americans. Many groups were subjected to be used as propaganda in radio ads to portray certain political views during the war.  

Conclusory Opinons

The jubilee quartets was a time of change in African American music. This time period was the transition from the sacred Negro Spirituals to secular music that had more of a beat. African Americans were also gaining more recognition for their music pieces as well as getting paid.  

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