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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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Innovators, Imitators, and a Jubilee Industry

Innovators, Imitators, and a Jubilee Industry

(p.82) Chapter 4 Innovators, Imitators, and a Jubilee Industry
Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Sandra Jean Graham

University of Illinois Press

The ever-growing success of the Fisk Jubilee Singers attracted widespread notice, and by 1873–1874 the troupe was facing a field of competitors, some of whom made innovations to the concert presentation of spirituals and others of whom were content to imitate the Fisk Jubilee Singers in style and repertory. Among the innovators were the Hampton Institute Singers, directed by Thomas P. Fenner. Their repertory was largely distinct from that of the Fisk singers, and they sang in a more folk-oriented performance style, as evidenced by the fact that they had a “shout leader” and sang in dialect. Another group of innovators was the Tennesseans (1874), directed by John Wesley Donavin, who sang in support of Central Tennessee College in Nashville. Their popularity rested on the supposed authenticity of what they billed as their “slave cabin concerts”—not a Fisk service of song but meant to be a naturalistic representation of slave life. The Tennesseans’ bass singer Leroy Pickett made many of their arrangements, becoming one of the earliest black arrangers of concert spirituals; later he became acting musical director. Imitators, on the other hand, reproduced the repertory and aesthetic of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They included the Hyers sisters, who reoriented their programming of art songs to include spirituals so that they could complete with other black singers at the time, as well as the Shaw Jubilee Singers, New Orleans Jubilee Singers, Jackson Jubilee Singers, Old Original North Carolinians (managed by T. H. Brand), and Sheppard’s Colored Jubilee Singers. With all of these groups, a jubilee entertainment industry began to take shape in 1872 to 1874, as performance norms were established and as organizations like lyceum bureaus began to add jubilee troupes to their roster.

Keywords:   Patrick Gilmore’s World’s Peace Jubilee, Hyer sisters, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Jubilee Singers and Hyers sisters, Hampton Institute Singers, folk traits and Hampton Institute Singers, Hampton Institute educational philosophy, Samuel Chapman Armstrong and Hampton Institute, American Missionary Association, Thomas P. Fenner, Joseph Towe, ring shout, Robert Hamilton, James Monroe Waddy, Sallie Davis, Negro spirituals, slave music, cabin and plantation songs, dialect in spirituals, “Some o’ dese Mornin’s,”, “A Great Camp Meeting in the Promised Land,”, “Cabin and Plantation Songs as Sung by the Hampton Students,”, the Tennesseans (singers of slave songs), John Wesley Donavin, slave cabin concerts, Leroy (L. N. D.) Pickett (Tennesseans), “Rise, Shine!”, Anna Madah Hyers, Emma Louise Hyers, Shaw Jubilee Singers, New Orleans Jubilee Singers, the Reverend Joseph Pollard, Jackson Jubilee Singers, Old Original North Carolinians, James M. Waddy, Sheppard’s Colored Jubilee Singers, lyceum movement and jubilee song, Chautauqua and jubilee singers, camp meeting and jubilee song

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