Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rejoice & Shout Film Review

On a cold and dark Monday night, I had the pleasure of viewing, Rejoice and Shout, a documentary that chronicles the 200 year history of African-American gospel music, stemming from the call-and-response spiritual hymns on the plantations all the way to the booming industry of contemporary Christian music. As a programmer at KCSB, I host a soul and R&B show and I was delighted to see the amazing footage that director, Don McGlynn, had collected. From rare recordings from the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, to the Blind Boys sing-offs, to Mahalia Jackson’s heart stopping performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Rejoice & Shout not only informed the audience, but also entertained them with captured moments of musical brilliance and innovation. With a deftly constructed storyline as well as lush and insightful commentary by some of gospel music’s most significant performers, like Clara Ward, Ira Tucker, and notable gospel historians, Rejoice & Shout told not only the story of gospel music, but also the story of the communities that found identity within these hallowed voices. What struck me most about this film was that almost every performance captured in both film and audio was utterly saturated with a raw sound that was simultaneously exalting, haunting, and alluring. Upon leaving the theatre I heard a couple sum up perfectly why gospel music has left such an enduring legacy in American music: these musicians were not singing for fame or fortune-they sang with an ineffable and irreparable conviction of spirit that still resonates with listeners to this day.

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