To Do This, You Must Know How
Music Pedagogy in the Black Gospel Quartet Tradition

By Lynn Abbott
and Doug Seroff

468 pages (approx.), 8 x 10 inches, 160 b&w photographs, introduction, general index, song index

978-1-4968-0248-4 Paper $40.00S

Paper, $40.00


* In 2017-2018 University Press of Mississippi is closed for the holidays Thursday, December 21, and will reopen Tuesday, January 2, 2018. Orders sent by Paypal through Tuesday, December 12, will ship in time for Christmas. IF YOU ARE NOT ORDERING FOR THE HOLIDAYS, PLEASE LEAVE US A NOTE IN PAYPAL. After December 12, customers desiring shipping before Christmas should call 1.800.737.7788 and ask for rush delivery. Please be prepared to pay extra for rapid shipping. Orders that come to our website through the holidays (December 21, 2017-January 2, 2018) will begin shipping on January 2, 2018.

A landmark study tracing the currents of music education that gave form and style to the black gospel quartet tradition

To Do This, You Must Know How traces black vocal music instruction and inspiration from the halls of Fisk University to the mining camps of Birmingham and Bessemer, Alabama, and on to Chicago and New Orleans. In the 1870s, the Original Fisk University Jubilee Singers successfully combined Negro spirituals with formal choral music disciplines and established a permanent bond between spiritual singing and music education. Early in the twentieth century there were countless initiatives in support of black vocal music training conducted on both national and local levels. The surge in black religious quartet singing that occurred in the 1920s owed much to this vocal music education movement.

In Bessemer, Alabama, the effect of school music instruction was magnified by the emergence of community-based quartet trainers who translated the spirit and substance of the music education movement for the inhabitants of workingclass neighborhoods. These trainers adapted standard musical precepts, traditional folk practices, and popular music conventions to create something new and vital.

Bessemer's musical values directly influenced the early development of gospel quartet singing in Chicago and New Orleans through the authority of emigrant trainers whose efforts bear witness to the effectiveness of "trickle down" black music education. A cappella gospel quartets remained prominent well into the 1950s, but by the end of the century the close harmony aesthetic had fallen out of practice, and the community-based trainers who were its champions had virtually disappeared, foreshadowing the end of this remarkable musical tradition.

Lynn Abbott, New Orleans, Louisiana, works for the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. Doug Seroff, Greenbrier, Tennessee, is an independent scholar. Abbott and Seroff are the authors of Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, published by University Press of Mississippi.

468 pages (approx.), 8 x 10 inches, 160 b&w photographs, introduction, general index, song index