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In the Spirit

From: WPSU-FM
Length: 59:00

A one-hour retrospective of 20th Century African-American Religious Music and Interviews Read the full description.
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In the Spirit
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WPSU-FM

Default-piece-image-2 In the Spirit is a one-hour trip along the gospel highway of African-American religious music hosted by Penn State Professor and author Jerry Zolten. This program explores the rich history of black gospel music and features some of the most important performers in the African-American gospel tradition. Included in the program are ground breaking recordings by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Blind Willie Johnson, the Fairfield Four, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson, as well as the voices of some of the performers themselves. Hear interviews with Isaac "Dickie" Freeman of the Fairfield Four, Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, and many others.

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Piece Description

In the Spirit is a one-hour trip along the gospel highway of African-American religious music hosted by Penn State Professor and author Jerry Zolten. This program explores the rich history of black gospel music and features some of the most important performers in the African-American gospel tradition. Included in the program are ground breaking recordings by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Blind Willie Johnson, the Fairfield Four, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson, as well as the voices of some of the performers themselves. Hear interviews with Isaac "Dickie" Freeman of the Fairfield Four, Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, and many others.

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Review of In the Spirit

IN THE SPIRIT captured MY SPIRIT. This is a well-produced, smart one-hour that gives voice to the history of gospel music.

It?s built on an impressive mix of recordings. Here?s just one example, a 1913 recording of The Fiske Jubilees doing ?Roll Jordan Roll.? How?d the producers dig that one up?

The program also excels when it pairs these historic recordings -- sometimes with contemporary ones -- to illustrate aspects of gospel?s history. Following the Fiske Jubilees? song mentioned above is a contemporary ?If We Ever Needed The Lord Before? by Take 6. No need for narration to comment on the vitality and continuity of the spiritual;we hear it.

Host Jerry Zolten worked in the studios with many of gospel?s most important performers. I?m assuming some of the fabulous music we hear is due to his guidance and archives. Regardless, Zolten?s a great choice to host. He lends an authoritative air to this community history without being overbearing. The narration is perfectly underwritten --- giving just enough context to move our understanding of gospel music along.

Finally, the show includes a number of interviews, the majority in the second half of the show, when the music has us hooked. A modern clip from bass Issac Freeman of the Fairfield Four punctuates the memories of Toby Young , a gospel DJ also interviewed for the piece. We hear from Thomas A. Dorsey, said to have coined the word ?gospel,? on his how he went from blues to religious singer. Critic Horace Boyer builds out the story and we see how modern gospel came to be. Kudos to the producers for giving these voices and others a forum.

Lots more to say ? but the bottom line is this: program the show for Fourth of July, Labor Day, or another American holiday. IN THE SPIRIT is accessible and engaging. Its mood is perfect and its lode of American history is ideal.

Anthea Raymond
Former PRX Editorial Board Member
Los Angeles
May 23, 2007

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Review of In the Spirit

This show was phenomenal! My listeners are blowing up our phones today after airing this special yesterday (2/1). I applaud the research and the music used to emphasize the history of African-American religious music. My hat is off to WPSU for the fine job that they did.

Timing and Cues

Program is 59 minutes with no internal breaks.

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