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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,John Garst History of spirituals (82* d) RE: History of spirituals 31 Dec 06

"...from Bill Steber

"While most contemporary churches have abandoned river and lake baptisms in favor or indoor baptismal tanks, the rural congregations of the Northwest Delta still gather together on the first Sunday in September to baptize yearly candidates in Moon Lake, just as they have for generations. It is at these baptism ceremonies where one can still hear spirituals sung in a style that predates modern gospel music. Songs are begun spontaneously by women song leaders and the congregation sings the lines as they are introduced in the classic call and response style which is the hallmark of African-American music, from spirituals to work chants to blues and jazz."

I'm glad to hear about Moon Lake but I object to the implication that one must travel to some such place to hear spirituals sung "in a style that predates modern gospel music." Just about any southern African American congregation can do that and does on occasion.

Also, "the congregation sings the lines as they are introduced" doesn't sound like spiritual singing but rather "Dr. Watts" singing, the very slow and ornamented singing of hymns led by a precentor who chants each line or two before the congregation sings them. These are not spirituals but rather hymns, often composed by Isaac Watts or another of the classic hymnists (Wesley, Newton, Cowper, and many others).

Much of what has been written about spirituals is romanticized after the fact. Literature on the subject should be approached with great caution.

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