The transition of new music: Quartets

Origin & Characteristics

There were three periods of quartets; The Jubilee quartet period (1880 – 1929), The Transitional Period (1930-1945), and The Gospel Period (1946-1969). The early quartets that emerged sung with very close and distinct harmonies. Many quartets dressed in suits and ties while performing. As time went along many quartets became popular and their style of music spread to churches and caught a very positive response. Many groups such as the Golden Gate Quartet sung in their performances spirituals with rhythmic beat of blues and jazz. Quartets became known nationwide when they gained popularity through radio and touring around the 1940’s. Quartets were typically a group of 4-6 people, who are highly rhythmic. A Group consisted of bass, tenor, soprano and alto singers. There are 5 types of quartets; University Jubilee Quartets, Minstrel Jubilee Quartets, Community Based Jubilee Quartets, Shape Note/Sacred harp quartets, and Barbershop Community Quartets.

Important Performers

Golden Gate Quartet
The Mills Brothers
Dixie Jubilee Singers


Fisk University Jubilee Quartet 1911-1929

Dixie Jubilee Singers 1920 – give me that old time religion

The mills brother 1934- 1970/80s – how’m I doin hey hey (actual brothers)

Heavenly gospel singers 1939 – have a little talk with Jesus

Golden gate quartet 1940- gospel train 

Social Implication, Commodification & Influences of Future Genres

Quartets was the beginning of a change in the black community. African Americans were gaining credit for their talents and making money to support their families and themselves. This time period of song was uplifting and changing the attitude in the black community. While there was good change , many quartets were either used for entertainment or used as a tool during the war as propaganda to show certain political views. As well as minstrel shows took place that showed African Americans and caucasians dressed in black face making a comedy of African Americans and latest news in the media. Quartets influenced the transition into blues and Jazz.

Conclusory Opinions

Quartets was a very important transition in African American Music it was one of the first times African Americans were credited for their talent and paid good money to make a living off of. The style of music was different from the style of negro spiritual and folk music. It was the beginning of a new era in music.

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