What is this Jubilee Quartet?

Jubilee quartets begin making their debut and picking up traction during the mid-1800s. We see the musical characteristics of these songs as a revitalization of negro spirituals and “church” music.  Of course to be a quartet these groups were combined of four members or instruments. These four voices are usually distinct within their four vocal ranges. The groups were limited on instruments and used different pronunciation techniques, sounds, percussive techniques, and dynamics to help the listener experience the music in a whole new way. Famously, we usually hear about Jubilee quartets made up of men. The question from many of my classmates was, “Where are the women?“.

The Wheat Street Female Quartet

The Wheat Street Female Quartet was an all female a capella quartet from Atlanta, Georgia. It is thought that their origins began at Wheat Street Baptist Church.  A lot of their history about this group was never written, but their music is what stops them from being denied as a prominent group. Though these recordings may not sound like the music we’re used to now, in the early 1900s this was a transforming experience for many people. While still stationed in Atlanta they recorded four spirituals for Columbia Records. These songs were “When the Saints Go Marching In”, “Go Down Moses”, “Wheel in a Wheel”, and “Oh, Yes!”. They went on to record many other songs for Columbia Records. These songs went on to influence not only the obvious, which is Gospel music, but they also influenced later country music. This genre was one that many tried to market as an exclusively White genre. However, the Wheat Street Quartets was one of many groups whose music was released by talking machine companies through their hillbilly series.

Conclusion

The repeated examples that we have seen from the present until now is not only the commodification of our music by white people. We also continually see music done by women not being validated like it is when done by men. When researching many of the quartets done by men I could find some type of history. These women don’t even have a Wikipedia page. We as a people have to do better about learning, knowing, and sharing our history. It’s time we reclaim what was rightfully ours from the start.

 

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