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Hearing The Jubilee

March 2024
1min read

TWO EXCELLENT RECORDINGS OFFER a sense of what transfixed the Jubilees’ first audiences. The first is the recently issued compact disc Rise, Shine: Fisk Jubilee Singers Live in Concert . Its performers are the musical descendants of the original troupe, though it is now a student choir, and it can be ordered by calling the Fisk Alumni Office at 800-443-2586. The other is Been in the Storm So Long: Spirituals, Folk Tales and Children’s Games From John’s Island, South Carolina , on the Smithsonian/Folkways label, which gives the listener an idea of the raw material from which the Jubilees fashioned their arrangements and renditions.

Among other good recordings available from Smithsonian/Folkways is the first volume of the “Wade in the Water” series. It is titled African American Spirituals: The Concert Tradition and includes midtwentieth-century recordings of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Also available are three volumes of early recordings of the Fisk Jubilee Quartets, the immediate descendants of the Jubilees who toured the United States in the early twentieth century. They are Fisk Jubilee Singers: 1909–1911, 1915–1920 , and 1924–1940 , and are presented in chronological order. The quartets had a different sound from the original Jubilee troupe; nevertheless, many of these singers studied under Ella Sheppard. These three volumes have been issued by England’s Document Records and can be ordered through Amazon.

—A.W.

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