CJ Replay: Gospel Music
Date: August 7, 2012
(From the Choral Journal article "Black Gospel Music and Its Impact on Traditional Choral Singing," by James Benjamin Kinchen, Jr.)
Black gospel music is becoming an increasingly popular and pervasive part of Black! American culture. Gospel music is accepted more today than ever before; more people are singing it and listening to it. Many Black churches whose worship music was once limited to anthems, hymns, and spirituals now have gospel choirs, usually consisting of youths or young adults. Outside the Black community, there is more awareness of gospel music than ever before. (During a recent visit to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City gospel singers were observed rehearsing for a large gospel-music festival that was to be held at the cathedral later that day.) Because the choral ensembles I conduct at a historically Black college draw largely from the Black community, I have been able to observe from an especially interesting perspective the impact of this gospel music phenomenon upon "traditional" choral singing at these institutions. My purposes in this article are to comment briefly on the history and characteristics of gospel music, to give some reasons for its increased popularity among young Black singers, to examine the specific effect that such singers have upon our efforts at traditional choral singing (Le. standard repertory consisting of choral compositions in the Western tradition), and to suggestsome constructive responses to the challenge of helping young singers who have been “schooled" in one style of singing adapt to another.