Jubilee Quartets- A Pivotal Development

Jubilee Quartets were created in the mid to late nineteenth century and are a cappella ensembles of four to six voices that perform formal arrangements of spirituals in close four part harmonies. The style of music which was sung by jubilee quartets is derived from spirituals, with their voices creating the beat rhythm of the songs.  The university jubilee quartet style emerged following the civil war, with the Fisk Jubilee  Singers, who began to travel and perform to raise money for their school. Most jubilee quartet songs are strophic, which means that the same melody is repeated with different words.

The Golden Gate Quartet are one of the most famous Jubilee Quartets to have ever performed and have been active since 1931. They began on radio in the mid-1930′, and after several contracts, signed under Columbia Records in 1940 (the height of the second world war) and recorded many songs with political implications. Other famous Jubilee Quartets included the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, active since 1919.

Commodification of Jubilee Quartets included the radio broadcasting, touring, and recordings, which further popularized the genre and targeted the black community. Towards the early twentieth century, Jubilee Quartets had evolved into more of a sub-genre of gospel music, regarding their performance styles. The evolvement of Jubilee Quartets and the time period during which they flourished were pivotal in the growth of African American music to all of the genres and artists that it boasts today. Music, regardless of racial divides, would not be the same without the existence of the Jubilee Quartet.

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