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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Rejoice and Shout

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Rejoice and Shout

Gospel music has never been a demure endeavor. This is music that you don’t sit down for, and it most definitely is NOT a spectator sport.  You raise your hands up to heaven, or clap them, or sway and dance to a joyous rhythm held afloat by emotion-packed, faith-based lyrics.

This 115 minute documentary, directed by Don McGlynn, (The Howlin’ Wolf Story) uses archival and performance footage, Gospel historians, and the performers themselves to illustrate and narrate the history of the genre.

Beginning with plantation songs, hum or sung by field workers in the 1800’s and railroad workers at the turn of the 20th century, Gospel music’s 200 year history is analyzed by experts and intercut with iconic performers in full voice and range of motion.  From slavery to Civil Rights to hip-hop, it’s a cultural journey as well as a musical one.

It’s also instant gratification for the viewer.  Interviews about Mahalia Jackson cut to her performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  A discussion about the 1902 recording of Gabriel’s Trumpet by the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, and the song (nearly 110 years old and the first Gospel song to be recorded) plays in its entirety.  There’s no shortage of material, enthusiasm, or movement.

There IS however, pushing, writhing, sweating, dancing; if not, something’s wrong.  This is celebration music.  It takes place in church, summoning up praise and joy in words and motion and spirit.  There’s warmth and camaraderie, community and connection.  This is a cultural art form, a fusion born of European Christianity and a rich African American cultural heritage that blended into a unique, vibrant musical expression that still evolves to the present day.

Gospel legends are interviewed.  Ira Tucker of The Dixie Hummingbirds, Willa Ward of Clara Ward and the Ward Singers, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, Marie Knight and Pastor Andrae Crouch all weigh in about their experiences and influences.  On a poignant note, Tucker and Knight have since passed away making their interview contributions all the more invaluable.

Performances include the ground-breaking, guitar-playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Swan Silvertones featuring Claude Jeter (his famous falsetto was the first of its kind in Gospel), The Blind Boys of Alabama AND The Blind Boys of Mississippi (yes, they held musical stage duels) James Cleveland, Edwin Hawkins (Oh Happy Day crossed over into mainstream America) and of course the great Mahalia Jackson, whom Mavis Staples credits with inspiring her to become a singer.

Author Bill Carpenter, radio host Jacquie Gales Webb and record producer Anthony Heilbut speak authoritatively on the performers and their impact.  Director Don McGlynn helms a comprehensive, passionate look at Gospel according to the people who gave it a voice.  The music was born here, matured here and continues to grow and prosper.

Rejoice and Shout ends its journey with a look at contemporary luminaries in the field (BeBe and CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin).  Roots are held sacred as the music continues to evolve, utilizing modern approaches like digitized rap and hip-hop inspired Gospel.  In order to embrace the music younger generations need to make it theirs; they have the blessing of those who’ve traveled the road before them, and if any musical form can make a claim on blessings, it’s Gospel.

Even Smokey Robinson weighs in on the music that’s influenced him since he was a child.  Talking about Gospel’s religious aspect, he cautioned that we’d be wise to “develop the spiritual self, ‘cause that’s all you’re takin’ with you” [when you leave this world].

Say Amen, somebody.

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