November 9th, 2007
A 5-part radio series on black choral music, Every Voice and Sing!, premiered earlier this year and has since been carried by 241 public radio stations. The series was a collaborative production of EVT Education Productions, Inc. and WGBO Jazz 88.3 FM, hosted and narrated by National Public Radio’s Michele Norris, and produced by Eric V. Tait, Jr. and Ann S. Hayward, who were also responsible for the 13-part radio series, Then I’ll be Free To Travel Home, about Manhattan’s 17th century African burial ground.
The good news is that the entire program is now available for on-demand listening at the EVT website. And best of all, the website includes complete program transcripts and a list of the over 200 recorded examples used throughout the series. This is an excellent resource for educators and those interested in the history of gospel music.
Every Voice and Sing! attempts to cover the entire history of black religious music, but with a particular focus on the importance of choirs in the birth, growth and survival of historically black colleges and universities. Episode one, “Every Voice: The Early Legends,” explores the founding of several HBCUs (including Fisk, Hampton, Morehouse, and Wilberforce), the development of their choirs, and the role the choirs played in promoting and supporting the colleges. Episode two, “The Legend Grows,” explores the accomplishments of the choir directors, including William Levi Dawson, R. Nathaniel Dett, and John S. Work, among others. Episode three, “And Sing,” follows changes in choral music as influenced by the college choirs, and also examines how certain venues (including Hollywood movies), artists (including Paul Robeson), composers and choir directors (such as William Dawson and Hall Johnson) affected the music and its acceptance. There is also considerable discussion about European choral traditions, and the general influence of Western art music on the performances of spirituals. Episode four, “A Different Drummer,” follows the origins and rise of gospel music, and its struggle for acceptance in the black churches and HBCUs. Though difficult to accomplish in an hour long program, this episode provides an excellent overview for the gospel novice, with commentary by Dr. Horace Boyer, Dr. Lena McLin (Dorsey’s niece), Rev. Richard Smallwood, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and Dr. Emily “Cissy” Houston. The final episode in the series, “A Joyful Noise,” focuses on contemporary choir directors and artists, as well as the synthesis of rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, and hip hop in contemporary gospel music.
If Every Voice and Sing! hasn’t aired in your area, be sure to contact your local public radio station and urge them to consider this wonderful series. You might also wish to check out Bob Marovich’s Gospel Memories radio program, which features lots of vintage black gospel music. If you can’t find it within yourself (or can’t remember) to set your alarm for 3 a.m. on the first Sunday of every month, just click on the Peacock Record to listen to archived segments of the program.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals