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Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry$
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Sandra Jean Graham

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041631

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041631.001.0001

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The Fisk Concert Spiritual

The Fisk Concert Spiritual

(p.48) Chapter 3 The Fisk Concert Spiritual
Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Sandra Jean Graham

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores the process of musically and culturally translating oral folk spirituals into notated arranged spirituals performed on the concert stage. The American Missionary Association hired people’s song composer and church musician Theodore F. Seward to transcribe the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ spirituals as arranged for them by their director, George L. White. Using Seward’s transcriptions as well as those by Jubilee Singers Ella Sheppard and Thomas Rutling, plus reviews and primary sources, as well as early recordings, this chapter recreates as far as possible the performance practice of the concert spirituals sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers on their tours. The reception of the Fisk Jubilee Singers is surveyed through numerous reviews and is interpreted to show how a codified discourse about spirituals was created in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, which stressed, for example, primitivism, wildness, nature, and the inherent musicality of the African race.

Keywords:   Jubilee Songs transcriptions, George L. White, Theodore F. Seward, American Missionary Association, transcription of spirituals, arrangement of spirituals, performance practice of Fisk concert spirituals, slave songs, Tonic-Sol-fa method, transcription as ideology, Ella Sheppard, Thomas Rutling, Jennie Jackson, performance practice of Fisk Jubilee Singers’ concert spirituals, “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,”, “The General Roll,”, “Steal Away,”, “Turn Back Pharaoh’s Army,”, “Roll, Jordan, Roll,”, Jeannette Robinson Murphy, melismas in concert spirituals, mode in concert spirituals, comparing concert and folk spirituals in performance, reception of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, service of song, Hutchinson Family Singers

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