With voices like these you don’t need instruments.
“Father, I Stretch My Hands To Thee,” live, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Chester, South Carolina, 10/08
In African American Churches in certain parts of the South Eastern United States, there still exists a style of music that pre-dates what the Gospel Music industry refers to as “Traditional Gospel Music,” founded by the late Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey. Some congregations refer to the choirs that sing the foundational “old-style” music, made up of middle-aged adults to senior citizens, as Hymn Choirs or Prayer Bands. They continue to have choir anniversaries and Fifth Sunday singings, and are very much favored for Revival services.
These hymns date back as far as 1707, and the spirituals have been passed down by oral tradition over the centuries. This sacred style of music and the traditions associated with it are in danger of disappearing as the singers go on to be with the Lord. As you listen, you may find yourself going back in time — remembering people you haven’t thought about in years. On the other hand, the music and the message may be totally foreign to you — but yet intriguing. Whatever the case, you will definitely be impacted by what you hear.
According to William T. Dargan, Ph.D., Professor of Music at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, the old style a capella “spirituals and hymns are characterized by two and three part modal harmonies, gradual but drastic quickening of tempos, frequent and strong body movements as well as polyrhythmic clapping and stomping patterns.”
“Developed by slaves during the camp meeting revivals of the early nineteenth century, spirituals are rhythmic, call-and-response song forms that continue in oral tradition among African-American congregations. ‘Lining out’ is a method of performing a psalm or hymn in which the leader gives out the words, or the melody, or both, one or two lines at a time, to be followed by the congregation. This practice began in the early seventeenth century by the British Parish Churches as an aid for those who were unable to read.”