Zion Harmonizers–Staples of the Transitional Era

In 2019, the Zion Harmonizers celebrated their Diamond Jubilee. That same year, they took part in the 50th annual Jazz Fest, a spot the group has  occupied every year since its inception, in the Gospel tent they helped to establish.



Established in 1939 in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans, La, the Harmonizers drew on harmonies and musical accompaniments popularized by quartets such as four-part harmonies, little to no instruments and the inclusion of bass singer Roger Brooks.



At the beginning of their career, they opened for the local Southern Harps. The group participated in song battles where, in the early days, they were judged solely on their vocal harmonies and technique–with no theatrics or as leader Sherman Washington puts it “hooping, hollering and running around dancing” until the 1950s. Their accolades over the 1950s and 1960s include 3 albums, international performances in Europe, and participants in their own weekly radio show. In 1969, prominent member Sherman Washington was asked to orchestrate a Gospel tent for the 1st Jazz Fest held in New Orleans’ former Congo Square. This introduced the group to an audience of all walks of life, and in turn, the group introduced their audience to the beauty of jubilee-style music.



In the 21st century, the Harmonizers remain committed to sharing their gift with their community–passing up national and international opportunities to perform at local churches. Current group leader Brazella E. Briscoe is quoted with saying the following after a performance in 2016: “If you don’t feel what you’re singing, then it’s to no avail.” The group wells up emotions in their listeners and continues to blur the genre lines by providing smooth, acapella harmonies in gospel music as well as R&B tunes.

Wanna Read More?

Abbott, Lynn. Zion harmonizers. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from http://www.soundofneworleans.com/6007~CD.htm

Burnim, M. V., & Maultsby, P.K. (2015). African American Music: An Introduction. New York u.a.:Routledge.

Hahn, R. (2016, November 18). Zion harmonizers – Know Louisiana. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://64parishes.org/entry/zion-harmonizers

The Zion Harmonizers: Biography & history. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-zion-harmonizers-mn0000581267/biography

Wirt, B. (2016, April 12). Where y’at. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.whereyat.com/the-zion-harmonizers-celebrate-77th-anniversary

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