Black American Choirs 1926 – 1931 – Full Album

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This CD Album (Physical Format) – DOCD-5566 – FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING $18.99 Add to cart
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1. Swing Low Sweet Chariot – Mount Vernon Choir (1926)
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2. When Jesus Comes – Mount Vernon Choir (1926)
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3. Hand Me Down The Silver Trumpet Gabriel – Chattahoochie Valley Choir (1927)
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4. King Jesus Is Listening – Chattahoochie Valley Choir (1927)
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5. On Jordan’s Stormy Banks We Stand – Seventh Day Adventists’ Choir (1926)
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6. Take Thy Burden To The lord – Seventh Day Adventists’ Choir (1926)
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7. Bye And Bye – Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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8. Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho – Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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9. Lift Every Voice And Sing – Dr. Henry Huugh Proctor Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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10. Address To Negros of America – Dr. Henry Huugh Proctor Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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11. You’ve Got To Be Modernistic – Great Day of New Orleans Singers (1929)
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12. Shout On – Great Day of New Orleans Singers (1929)
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13. The Day Is Past And Gone – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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14. Father, I Stretch Out My Hands Unto Thee – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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15. I Love Thy Church O Lord – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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16. Blessed Be The Tie That Binds – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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17. Fight On Your Time Ain’t Long – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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18. Heaven Belong To You – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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19. Ezekiel Saw De Wheel; Swing Low Sweet Chariot; Keep Yo’ Hand On The Plow; Hold On – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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20. Good News; Standing In De Need Of Prayer; Religion Is A Fortune – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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21. St James Infirmary Blues; Eastman – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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22. Water Boy – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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DOCD-5566
Negro Choirs 1926 – 1931

Genres; Gospel, Spirituals
Informative booklet notes by Duck Baker.
Detailed discography.

This release affords a fascinating glimpse of various ways that African-Americans were approaching choral singing in the 1920’s. By the time of these recordings, the singing of the old spirituals had been a hotly contested topic for years. Many of the first generation of free-born blacks felt the old songs to be shameful relics of bondage. Another camp took their cue from Anton Dvorak’s famous pronouncement that any truly American art music would have to be based on the spirituals. This point of view was a driving force in the lives of many black Americans, from Fisk University figures like the Work family and Mr. and Mrs. James Myers to concert performers like Harry Burleigh to renaissance men like James Weldon Johnson.

One such champion of the spiritual-as-art camp was Henry Hugh Proctor, born in 1868 near Clifton, Tennessee. The recordings here show his flock to be a very polished group by congregational choir standards, though of course many were and are. The very early version of the Johnson brothers’ great anthem Lift Every Voice is probably the standout.

Another important figure for this movement was Hall Johnson who began his long life in Athens, Georgia in 1888. The Hall Johnson Choir was formed in 1925 and appeared in various Hollywood as well as Broadway productions. His very strong ideas about the performance of the spirituals are expressed in an article from 1960 (reprinted in Eileen Southern’s “Readings in Black American Music”), in which he vents his frustration at having had insufficient recording opportunities. Close listening to Ezekiel and Good News does reveal an approach that is quite different from the University choirs thought of as representing the Jubilee tradition nowadays.

The Seventh Day Adventists and the Primitive Baptist Church of New York give similar performances in which a leader “lines out” the words to be sung, a practice associated with camp meetings or other situations where hymnals might not be handy. The singing sounds congregational, if rehearsed, and the effect of these simple but emotionally charged performances is considerable. The powerful female lead on the NVC group’s Fight On is also noteworthy.

From aural evidence it would be a good guess that the Chattahoochie Valley Church had a choir with an ambitious director, and the Mount Vernon Choir sounds studied as well. Perhaps they were not strictly a church choir. But while these tracks are undoubtedly aiming at polish, a performance like When Jesus Comes seems almost folky in spite of itself, and has in any case a real impact tor the listener who gives it a chance.

The Great Day New Orleans Singers are obviously not a church group, nor, unless mistaken, are they from anyplace but New York. The piano is immediately identifiable as James P. Johnson, even before the exhortation to “Stroke that thing, Jimmy!”, so typical of the routines he did with Perry Bradford and others. James P. recorded “Modernistic”, which was likely from a show that included these delightful productions, on three other occasions.

This CD Album (Physical Format) – DOCD-5566 – FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING $18.99 Add to cart
Full Album Download – DOCD-5566 $8.99 Add to cart
1. Swing Low Sweet Chariot – Mount Vernon Choir (1926)
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2. When Jesus Comes – Mount Vernon Choir (1926)
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3. Hand Me Down The Silver Trumpet Gabriel – Chattahoochie Valley Choir (1927)
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4. King Jesus Is Listening – Chattahoochie Valley Choir (1927)
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5. On Jordan’s Stormy Banks We Stand – Seventh Day Adventists’ Choir (1926)
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6. Take Thy Burden To The lord – Seventh Day Adventists’ Choir (1926)
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7. Bye And Bye – Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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8. Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho – Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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9. Lift Every Voice And Sing – Dr. Henry Huugh Proctor Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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10. Address To Negros of America – Dr. Henry Huugh Proctor Nazereine Congregational Chuirch Choir (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1927
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11. You’ve Got To Be Modernistic – Great Day of New Orleans Singers (1929)
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12. Shout On – Great Day of New Orleans Singers (1929)
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13. The Day Is Past And Gone – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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14. Father, I Stretch Out My Hands Unto Thee – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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15. I Love Thy Church O Lord – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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16. Blessed Be The Tie That Binds – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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17. Fight On Your Time Ain’t Long – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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18. Heaven Belong To You – Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina (1930)
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19. Ezekiel Saw De Wheel; Swing Low Sweet Chariot; Keep Yo’ Hand On The Plow; Hold On – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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20. Good News; Standing In De Need Of Prayer; Religion Is A Fortune – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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21. St James Infirmary Blues; Eastman – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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22. Water Boy – Hall Johnson Negro Choir (1930-1931)
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