Jubilee Quartets

By: JaNae Fleming

In the mid 1800s a new style of music occurred amongst African Americans. This genre specifically started with African American college students. This genre is commonly known as the jubilee quartet. While African Americans were still using negro spirituals to express their hardships during the time of slavery, but at this time as they were considered free, they were not treated as such. Jubilee quartet was negro spirituals sung with a faster tempo. Most people think quartet means four people but a jubilee quartet can be made up of four to six people. The term quartet comes into place because there are four harmonies present in the jubilee quartet. These four harmonies consist of first tenor, second tenor, baritone, and bass. There are multiple types of jubilee quartets. University quartets, Fisk University being one of the first to use jubilee singing to raise funds for their college, Community quartets, people of the community who sang about the concerns of the community, these were generally more than four people and sometimes consisted of women also. Sacred quartets were most commonly seen in churches, which could contribute to how jubilee quartet singing transitioned into gospel music. Barbershop quartets, The Golden Gate quartet started in a barbershop, which to most people was the safe haven of the community. Minstrel quartets, this type of quartet was a mockery of black jubilee quartets where white people would use black face and act as if they were singing in a jubilee style. While minstrel shows were mocking African Americans it was what led to jubilee becoming popular. As a result jubilee quartets started traveling and performing their own minstrel shows in order to receive financial compensation. With the development of radio and television jubilee quartets became more mainstream than negro spirituals as they could now be streamed.

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