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https://www.loc.gov/collections/songs-of-america/articles-and-essays/musical-styles/ritual-and-worship/african-american-gospel

Week #4 Spirituals and Gospel

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1) In the first video on our playlist, the history of the Praise House is being explored. Answer the following questions based on this video.
a. Where is Deacon Smalls working to preserve the tradition of the Praise House?
b. What year do the original benches date back to? (This tells us how long the Praise Houses have been standing and active and gives us an idea of the strength of the tradition).
c. Praise houses were more than just houses of worship. What are some other reasons people visited Praise Houses?
i. What does this tell you about the overall importance of worship in the Black communities in the South during the 19th century?
2) In the second video on our playlist, the narrator is talking about the use of coded language in Spirituals. Answer the following questions based on this video.
a. What is coded language and why was it important?
b. What was Jordan a metaphor for?
c. What was a “band of angels?”
d. What are some of the other examples of coded language she shares?
3) In the third video on our playlist, the narrator is talking about the secrets hidden in Spirituals.
a. He talks about the multiple purposes of spirituals. What are some of the uses he mentions for this genre? What situations are they sung in?
b. What song does he say Harriet Tubman sang to see if anyone wanted to join her on the Underground Railroad?
4) Listen to “Go Down, Moses” on our weekly playlist.
a. Do you hear call and response?
b. What are some similarities and differences between this spiritual and the music we heard last week, such as the Ring Shout or the Work Song? Please identify and describe at least one similarity and one difference.
5) Listen to “Steal Away to Jesus” on our weekly playlist.
a. Do you hear repetition?
b. Would you describe this music as simple or complex? How does this relate to the function of the music, both as a religious song and as a message about the Underground Railroad?
6) Listen to Harry Belafonte sing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.”
a. In this song, Belafonte makes several references to the Civil Rights movement. Identify at least two of those references and compare/contrast them with the Biblical references. Be specific about which Civil Rights event(s) he is mentioning!
7) When were Spirituals first published?
a. What did Abolitionists hope to accomplish by sponsoring the publication of Spirituals?
8) Was Gospel meant to serve the same dual function as Spirituals? Whether yes or no, please give details/explain.
9) When did modern Gospel music emerge?
10) Why did some church leaders disapprove of the sound of Gospel music as it was introduced by Thomas A. Dorsey?
11) Listen to the “Old Ship of Zion” and “Daniel Saw the Stone” on our playlist. Both are performed by the Holloway High School Quartet in 1941. The first is meant as an example of a Spiritual and the second as an example of Gospel. Identify and describe at least 3 similarities and/or differences between these songs that help place them into the Spirituals or Gospel genre.
a. #1
b. #2
c. #3
12) Listen to “If You See My Savior” by Thomas A. Dorsey.
a. Do you hear repetition?
b. Do you hear call and response?
c. How would you describe the sound of Dorsey’s voice?
13) Was Gospel music usually accompanied by instruments or not?
14) Which two musicians teamed up to found the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses?
15) What does her biography say made Mahalia Jackson’s style different from that of the music heard in more conservative congregations?
16) Listen to Mahalia Jackson sing “I’ve Been Buked and I’ve Been Scorned” at the 1963 March on Washington.
a. Describe the emotional atmosphere she creates with her voice and how she does it. Think in terms of things like sliding between notes, pausing between sentences, and things like this.
b. How does the sound of her voice relate to the idea that Gospel in many ways bridges the sacred/secular divide?
c. How would you describe the connection between Jackson and her audience? How does this compare to the connection between a Gospel singer and a church congregation?
17) Mahalia Jackson is often credited with influencing the sound of female R&B singers. Listen to this version of Aretha Franklin singing “Respect” and identify at least 3 things about the music, whether Franklin’s voice, the instrumental background, or anything else, that show this influence.
a. #1
b. #2
c. #3

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