By: Joseph Middleton
Golden Era Gospel is true Americana. It is an art form and an expression of spirituality and faith. It is the story of a people, a message of salvation to a world that desperately needs to hear it. Its sounds range from a hard driving beat accompanied by squalling vocals which drive a congregation into a frenzy, to a simple chorus singing with a sound of urgency. These differing sounds of Golden Era Gospel owe their existence to a common musical ancestor, the Negro Spiritual.
It seems like perfect timing to mention Negro Spirituals on this blog seeing as it's February, which means it's Black History Month in the United States. While many churches regularly take a trip down "Old School Boulevard" some Sunday mornings, this time of the year may be the only time many Music Ministry Departments will take the time to depart from modern repertoire and touch a Negro Spiritual or a song from the Golden Era for just a few minutes, if at all. This is unfortunate. Just as it would be wrong for a high school U.S. History class to ignore the Founding Fathers, it should be just as wrong for a Music Ministry Department to ignore this important heritage, and ignore the songs of yesteryear. These sounds of divine inspiration provided hope and sustenance to those who have traveled before us on this pilgrim journey. I hope some Pastors and Ministers of Music will take heed to this message and help spread kernels of knowledge about these songs and their writers to their congregations through song and other presentations.
I'll conclude this post with a spoken word narrative by the late United States Congresswoman, Barbara Jordan of Houston, Texas. Jordan was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London as she spoke of the importance of Negro Spirituals and "The Gospel Train" as only she knew how, with eloquence and poise.
Barbara Jordan: The Gospel Train
As for me? I'm boarding the Gospel Train, won't you ride along with me? Come on aboard, there's room for many more!