Moving on Up: Jubilee Quartets

The Origin and Characteristics of Jubilee Quartets

Deriving originally from Negro Spirituals and Folk, in the late 1800s, Jubilee Quartets became a new unique style of music. They became wildly popular after the Civil War when the Freedman Bureau established Education Systems for the newly emancipated slaves. When Fisk University was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1870, George L. White aided the financial issue by gaining exposure for the institution. He made a mixed singing group of nine members, most were freed, slaves. They would later be named the Fisk Jubilee Singers, they gained emended popularity and even toured in Europe by the end of 1873.
What makes a Jubilee Quartet is a group of 4-6 men (sometimes woman but not as often), regardless of the number of members they sing a four-part harmony in a cappella or with little instrumentation. The parts usually include the bass, baritone,second-tanner, and top-guy. Their distinctive elements and sonic qualities highlight the values of the African American community and give the quartets such a unique sound. Quartets were instrumental in capturing the aesthetic of the Black community and sang in numerous contexts: festivals, church, and community functions
Traditionally from churches, Jubilee Quartets were also used to generate revenue along with to entertain. Many groups like the Golden Gate Quartet founded in Norfolk, Virginia went on to have radio and television appearances in the twentieth century. They were even used for propaganda in the second World War.

Important Performers

The Golden Gate Quartet founded 1931 at Booker T. Washington College in Norfolk, Virginia
Five Blind Boys, a gospel quartet founded in the 1930s in Alabama
Image result for five blind boys
Wheat Street Female Quartet is an all-female group from Atlanta, Georgia. Little is known about them but their music speaks volumes.

The Future is Filled with Glee because of Jubilee

The unique sound of Jubilee Quartets made it so it had its own Gospel sub-genre and heavily influenced the gospel world. In 1940 after the Great Depression, summoned a rise in black empowerment and Gospel Quartets began to make its way. They set the tone for many gospel groups that followed and will continue to have musical importance in the black community. Some of the basic structure is still found in black churches today that instead of instruments they use harmonies to create music.

What do I Think?

Quartets bring a lively feel to Negro Spirituals and Folk music. Since their creation in the late 1800s it is interesting of white people tried to discredit the black community and mock their beautiful music. With derogatory actions lie performing in blackface and using these Quartets as pawns show their lack of respect the not only for music but the value of African American work. But as always through their music, they overcame backlash and really set the tone for generations to come through the quartets influence in the black community. The range of musical talent is so diverse and shows what we are truly capable of.
Vashti Jones

Vashti Jones

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