Rejoice and Shout
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Rated PG for mature themes and some smoking.
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
A Deep River Films and Magnolia Pictures Presentation
Directed by Don McGlynn and Produced by Joe Lauro
Running time: 115 min.
"If we really heard the voice of God, we would be reduced to juice. The vibration of His voice would reduce us to liquid. . . So He has to use other people to speak his word."
--Pastor Andraé Crouch
The very words evoke images of powerful voices singing skyward, of
tearful shouts of joy and praise.
Of African-American men, women and children, exhilarated by the
freedom of expression of their faith, shouting aloud in joy or laid low by
the humility the music instills in them, releasing the hardness of their
lives into the hands of their Lord.
The story of this music is one that producer Joe Lauro has been wanting to tell for some time. An avid fan and collector of music since his childhood, Lauro founded a stock footage library, ARIQ, which later became Historic Films. The archive is home to over 45,000 hours of vintage television, feature film, newsreel and other historic footage from 1896 to 1990, which it licenses out for a wide variety of projects. The collection includes over 30,000 individual musical performances, dating back to as early as 1925 – including a great many Gospel performances, of which Lauro has a keen interest.
"I've always focused on trying to find some of the great Gospel that I knew had to exist on film," he explains. "I've slowly, for 10 years or so, been acquiring material for representation, looking up the old producers or finding shows that were long-defunct, to try and find prints." The search resulted in over 10,000 hours of amazing material – as can be seen in REJOICE AND SHOUT.
Though Lauro himself did not grow up hearing Gospel music in his own Sunday church experience, it nonetheless, like for many white Americans, had a tremendous impact. "It really is a minority music, truly, in so many ways. White folks really don't understand the importance of it and the power of it. It's the bond in the African-American church community. But it's beyond just singing at church. The music is so moving and riveting and visceral. And I'd never seen anything that really got into the story of this music."
Meanwhile, filmmaker Don McGlynn, since his earliest
films in the 1980s, had become known for his ability to tell the stories of
a wide variety of genres of American music.
"I've been obsessed with both movies and music since I was two," says
It was only natural that the two music lovers, McGlynn and Lauro, would eventually find themselves working together. After completing a 10-year project in 1997 on the music of jazz artist Charles Mingus, McGlynn teamed with Lauro for the first time on a film about screen composer Harold Arlen, Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Harold Arlen, a project which Lauro had wanted to make for 13 years. Once completed, the two kept their momentum going, creating documentaries about singer Louis Prima (Louis Prima: The Wildest, 1999) and blues man Howlin' Wolf (The Howlin' Wolf Story, 2003) and other projects . "Don and I are kind of kindred spirits and lovers of great American music," Lauro says. "We've always covered the crazy quilt of great things that make up American music."
The Howlin' Wolf and Mingus projects also included the involvement of another music resource, REJOICE AND SHOUT associate producer Celia Mingus Zaentz. "She's a big music fan, as well as a good friend," explains McGlynn. Having been married to Mingus, she, of course has jazz leanings, having co-founded one of the first record companies run by jazz musicians, Debut Records.
In 2005, McGlynn was in
The ball finally got rolling one year later. Lauro began combing through the Historic Films – as well as his personal – collections, picking out what he considered to be the best of the lot. "I chose both the types of music and performances that I felt we should include, as well as the groups that I felt it was important to include," he notes.
Lauro forwarded his suggested clips to McGlynn in
McGlynn got the footage selections down to about three hours of material. "Then I had to decide which were the things that I really needed in order to tell the story," eventually settling on an hour and 10 minutes worth of material, which became the core of the finished film, throughout the editing process.
McGlynn decided fairly early on, for the most part, to play performance clips in their entirety. "I think it's really important that you see the music numbers play out – because they're music films," he says. "I think it's kind of strange when you see movies about music where there barely is any, just musicians talking."
Indeed, the director soon realized that it was important to provide viewers a context to understand the music and its history. "There's always the challenge of, ‘How do you balance this? How do you set off each of the individual numbers, so they have the maximum impact?' You don't do that by just lining them up and playing them. You have to contextualize them. We're telling a musical story, but we're also coming at it from an historical, social, cultural and personal level at the same time."
In order to provide that context, McGlynn and Lauro assembled an impressive group, made up of a combination of respected historians and respected musicians – many of whom had lived through the early periods of Gospel history being told – as well as some whose own music had been influenced by it.
Providing perspective are three eminent Gospel music historians. Anthony Heilbut is well-known for his definitive book on the genre, "The Gospel Sound," written in 1968. "His book was really one of the first stabs at documenting the music," says McGlynn. "He was a great help – he knew all of these people personally – and is able to contextualize things in a coherent way." Lauro adds, "Tony's life has been devoted to this music. He has single-handedly helped keep the community organized and get records out there. He's championed some of the older performers. And he's an expert."
Two other experts, both from the Washington, DC, area – author Bill Carpenter and radio host Jacquie Gales-Webb – also provide great context, often offering a perspective on the personal histories of the artists. "They know where everybody is in the community, and they understand it well," Lauro notes. "They try to help people know more about some of the elder statesmen, by writing about them, interviewing them and keeping it alive." Carpenter's book, "Uncloudy Days: A Gospel Encyclopedia," is widely regarded as one of the most complete reference books on the topic.
One of the last great elder statesmen of Gospel, The Dixie Hummingbirds' Ira Tucker – who died in 2008, before the release of the film – appears, alongside his son, Ira, Jr., and Willa Ward, of The Ward Singers, as does Marie Knight (who has also since passed), another performer from the classic era, offering the kind of perspective only those who lived through this history can provide.
"When you see Ira early in the film, you just see this wonderful old gentleman in his cap," notes Lauro. "But once he begins telling stories, it allows you to somehow beam yourself into his memory and become part of the places and the things that he did. That's part of what drives me, as a filmmaker and as a historian, to fantasize about being there." McGlynn agrees. "These people actually witnessed a lot of the events that we're describing in the movie. So when they say something about it, you have the benefit of seeing things from a personal point of view. So we have personal reminiscences of things from the late 20s and early 30s, which is remarkable."
The Tuckers and Willa Ward were actually interviewed at
the historic Metropolitan Opera House in
Offering a more contemporary perspective are R & B greats Smokey Robinson and Mavis Staples. Though known to secular audiences in the 1970s for rhythm and blues, Mavis, since her childhood, was, alongside her siblings and father, "Pops" Staples, part of The Staple Singers, well-known for their Gospel music long before their days in the pop world.
"She's delighted when anyone brings attention to her family, and, particularly, her father, who was obviously such a big influence on her," Lauro says. "She helps bring us back to her roots. And she talks about the message of the music and gives it some real important validation. She's a witness."
Robinson, of course, is known for his countless Motown
hits as part of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.
His involvement in REJOICE AND SHOUT was a fortuitous one.
"I was making a film about The Four Tops, for which Smokey had agreed
to be interviewed," Lauro recalls.
"I wasn't able to get out to
His appearance in the film is not simply one of a musician offering an appreciation. "Look at Smokey and The Miracles in 1964-65, and what he's singing," Lauro says. "They all come from the Gospel church. When you see them perform ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me' on The Tami Show in 1964, if you look at TV Gospel Time from the same year, with some of the other quartets and quintets, it's the same stuff. Just the lyric is a little different."
Even more important to McGlynn was Robinson's spiritual perspective. "He talks about a lot of things, like about his belief in God and how he spends so much time throughout his day praising God and asking for guidance," McGlynn says. "I realized that was something that was essential to a movie like this.
REJOICE AND SHOUT, in fact, spends its first 15 minutes exploring this very topic – laying the spiritual groundwork for what is to follow. "In so many of these types of historical documentaries, they usually say why the thing's important and why you're watching it in the first two or three minutes, and then they cut to the baby picture," the director explains. "In this case, I thought, ‘This is about Gospel music. What's the most important thing about it?' The number one thing you need to know before anything else is you really have to see what these people feel about God and how they express it in the music."
Lauro agrees. "The underlying message was just to show that it's all about the same thing. It's all about the power of the Lord, and how the music gives you salvation and release. And they pretty much all said that very thing."
REJOICE AND SHOUT is loaded with rare audio and film clips, from the Historic Films archive and other sources, dating back to the beginning of the last century. "We're very proud of the archival material, some of which hasn't seen the light of day since the day it was filmed," says Lauro.
Though the film's budget did not allow for extensive digital restoration, he adds, "I always tried to do the best transfers I could from the elements we had, a lot of which came from 16mm." The results, in most cases, are startlingly crisp.
The film was shot in High Definition. I was always concerned that the new footage would look very polished, and the old clips would suffer by comparison", said McGlynn. "An enormous amount of time was spent cleaning up the audio and visuals of the older material. Along with my editor Frank Axelsen, we literally went through the film, shot by shot, to up resolve the images to High Definition. And even more time was spent cleaning up and equalizing the sound into a 5.1 audio mix. After living with this footage for some years, I was quite startled by the final result. So many details appeared that I never noticed before.
After an introduction by Pastor Andraé Crouch, who, in the 70s, was one of Gospel's most popular stars, the film begins with a surprisingly stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace" by a quite young member of The Selvy Family Singers (see below, both artists). A number of the film's participants share about their personal connections to God and how Gospel music plays a part in that relationship. "When I'm feeling down, I find myself listening to Gospel music, cause it lifts me up," notes Bill Carpenter. "How could I stay down, when I'm hearing this great music?"
"I believe that if I ask the Lord for something, it is coming," says Mavis Staples. "It might not be today, it might be tomorrow. But when it comes, it's gonna be right on time."
It's hard not to be roused by Jackie Verdell and Brother Joe May's rendition of "You're Gonna Need Him," taken from a 1964 appearance on the popular 1960s Gospel television series, TV Gospel Time. May was known to fans as "The Thunderbolt of the Middle-West," and it's not difficult to see why.
The Caravans, featuring Shirley Caesar, and Jimmy Outler and The Soul Stirrers contribute two more numbers, also from TV Gospel Time in 1964. Says McGlynn, "That clip of The Soul Stirrers, as well as the one of The Caravans, really get very much to the point. They express the religious devotion in a really strong way. Those, plus the Jackie Verdell/Brother Joe May piece, really pull us into the vortex of all that emotion."
Ira Tucker, Jr. points out an historic experience which must have been one for the history books – a dueling performance between his dad's Hummingbirds and one of The Soul Stirrers' other lead singers – Sam Cooke. "There was always this thing about Sam Cooke and my dad going up against each other! It was wonderful – so much drama."
The film takes a few moments to put the music in the context of the African-American church experience. "I wanted people to understand the whole form of the church service," McGlynn explains. "I grew up going to Catholic mass, which was completely different from this. You would do your hour, and you would go home. Everybody I interviewed for the film, when I told them that, they said, ‘Hour?? We'd be there all day!' So I thought it was important to show what that form of worship was, in order to help the audience understand where the music fits into the African-American spiritual experience."
As singer Darrel Petties says in the film, "We're used to the hand-clapping and the foot-stomping, and the sweating and the lifting up of our voices." Adds Bill Carpenter, "You don't go to just sit and watch. You're not just a spectator. You go to participate."
McGlynn shows us another part of that experience, in a
rare clip of preacher King Louis H. Narcisse leading a service at his
"When I was a kid, that was one of the reasons I really didn't like to go to church with my mom, because, at that age, I didn't understand the impact of the Holy Spirit," Smokey Robinson recalls. "That frightened me, until I had grown and the Holy Spirit impacted me."
Says the director, "When we see people faint or lose themselves in the religion, a lot of us believe that it's phony. But I think it's really powerful, and I felt it was important to show the audience that these people weren't kidding. They really meant it."
Having set the stage, the film begins to reveal the genesis of Gospel music, back to the days when plantation-bound black slaves were introduced to European Christianity during the 1800s. "They were pushed into European religion, but brought their own rhythm with them," explains Jacquie Gales-Webb.
"The Africans began to take certain elements from their African worshipping experiences and merge that with the English experience that they were receiving," Bill Carpenter notes. "Through decades of going to church like this, it's going to become your own religion, and that's what happened."
Smokey adds, "Those people out there in those cotton fields, hummin' and singin' and praising the Lord – that's all they could do to entertain themselves, to withstand what they had to withstand."
The very first African-American vocal group to make a
phonograph recording is represented in a rare 78 rpm disc from the Dinwiddie
Colored Quartet – "Gabriel's Trumpet" from 1902.
"Black artists, such as the Dinwiddie Quartet, traveled around the
The disc is significant for another reason, McGlynn notes. "This record precedes by almost two decades the secular blues and jazz, which started getting recorded around 1921, 1922. I guess because this was God's music, they thought it was more important to document. It's just sort of an accident that they happen to have been recorded, and they happened to make history."
The students of
The strikingly well-preserved clip, like many of the
restored films seen in REJOICE AND SHOUT, comes from a large
collection of outtakes from Fox Movietone News housed at the
Movietone was the early sound-on-film sound system used by Fox Film Corporation, precursor to Twentieth Century-Fox. The camera was a "single-system" camera, recording both image and sound onto the same 35mm film strip.
Beginning in 1927, with the launch of Charles
Lindbergh's famous flight across the
"Anything that sang or talked was liable to be filmed," Joe Lauro explains. "And they did a lot of African-American music – quartets, kids singing Gospel, and some plantation stuff." The university's collection was, at one time, represented by Historic Films. "We discovered a lot of it, through logging the material – which, in a sense, was, for us, like running barefoot through it."
While, typically, 30 to 45 seconds' worth of a performance might have appeared in a completed newsreel of the day, complete performances – sometimes from rare two-camera shoots – are seen in REJOICE AND SHOUT, such as the Rust College performance. "They'd either shoot the same thing a number of times, or they would shoot it at the same time with a second camera, stitching it together like any editor would do now with multiple sources," McGlynn explains. "So I was actually able to, along with our editor, Frank Axelsen, go in and edit those sequences from scratch."
Rarely touched since the day they were filmed, the negatives were in nearly perfect condition, save some occasional nitrate damage. "The only challenge was with the audio, because they shot at 26 frames per second, instead of the 24 frames rate which became standard shortly thereafter. But we were able to work with that," bringing true history alive.
The Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, apparently taking a break from their oyster shucking "day job" in Richmond, Virginia, deliver "Do You Call That Religion" taken from footage from yet another set of Fox Movietone newsreels from 1928, the film, a two-camera shoot, has such a well-preserved soundtrack that one can even hear the sound of the camera's shutter clicking in the background.
"They were actually a rather prominent recording group," says McGlynn. "I first saw this clip, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is great, just working class people, taking a break from shelling oysters.' Then I found out it was the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, who were a pretty big deal! So what's interesting in what this clip shows us is that not only were they important musically, but they still weren't making enough money off of their career to do it full time. They were sitting there having to work for a living."
A truly rare piece of footage, featuring The Utica Quartet, singing "Deep River," provides an example of a yet-earlier sound-on-film recording – this one from 1922, using the De Forest Phonofilm process. "Everybody thinks of ‘The Jazz Singer' in 1927 as the first sound movie, but De Forest's films actually pre-dated that film by more than five years," McGlynn says.
To demonstrate his Phonofilm invention, De Forest shot
a number of experimental films, using a
Gospel music was one of the things that helped
African-Americans get through the toughest times of the Great Depression,
with the music often citing imagery from the Old Testament of "crossing the
The Elder Solomon Lightfoot Michaux preached keeping faith and strength through the tough times, as seen in a rare 1935 clip, singing "Happy I Am," filmed in Washington, D.C., during one of his popular weekly CBS radio shows. The crowd sings about being happy with what God has given them, no matter who little it might be. "The Depression of the 30s, those hard periods, just made those stronger men and women," Carpenter notes.
Thomas A. Dorsey, the son of a Georgia Baptist preacher, was among the first Gospel artists to bounce between the church and the nightclub. "In the club, he's writing some of the funniest – and filthiest – double-meaning blues," says Anthony Heilbut in the film. "But in church, he's writing some of the deepest songs – with melodies that are derived both from blues and Irving Berlin! And by 1935, he had composed 40 songs which I classify as Gospel standards."
"His blues records are absolutely filthy," laughs McGlynn. "He atoned for his sins not long after."
Dorsey wasn't the only Gospel artist to begin introducing jazz devices into his music. By the 1930s, quartets such as the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet began doing the same. Says Anthony Heilbut, "They, like The Mills Brothers, are using their voices as instruments."
"They were basically a very smooth group that really had refined that barber shop quartet type of harmony," notes Bill Carpenter. And their audience wasn't just black – the Golden Gates were truly mainstream, with a regular CBS radio broadcast (one of whose broadcasts we hear in the film), which spread the quartet sound across the country. All the way to The White House, in fact, where they performed for Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 inauguration, the first Gospel group to perform there.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was, quite simply, "the hippest
Gospel singer in town," as Heilbut calls her.
Though she started out evangelizing with her mother as Rosetta Nubin
from Cotton Plant,
Here she is seen in 1941, performing one of her huge hits, "Lonesome Road," with the Lucky Millinder Band, just three years after her introduction to the recording studio. "That's from a ‘Soundie,'" explains Lauro. "The Soundies Corp. had a pioneering video jukebox, which you'd find in juke joints, taverns and penny arcades. It was this big box, with a screen, and you'd put a nickel in and it would play you a film, with sound. That footage is one of the few places where you can find examples of African-American artists performing on film in the earlier years."
Sister Rosetta also closes our film, with a 1963 clip from TV Gospel Time, performing "Down By The Riverside" on her trademark white Gibson SG guitar.
While thus far in REJOICE AND SHOUT, Ira Tucker has simply been a commentator, we finally see him in his prime as part of The Dixie Hummingbirds, a group he joined at age 13 in 1938, and continued performing with for 70 years, until his death in 2008. "Some groups are around forever – they're dynasties," notes Joe Lauro.
The Hummingbirds were known for their inventive vocal arrangements, due in no small part to Tucker. "They were so inventive in even the tiniest, fascinating aspects of their arrangements," says McGlynn. "There's so much detail in there." Adds Carpenter, "Those kinds of vocal intricacies did not occur before the Hummingbirds."
The clip featured ("Reason I Shout") – as well as that for The Swan Silvertones that follows later – are, again, from outtakes of a never-seen two-camera newsreel shoot from the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, finally assembled for presentation in REJOICE AND SHOUT. "I was fortunate to acquire both camera rolls," notes Lauro. "It was shot to be edited, but it was never done."
"I'm not usually in love with multiple camera or multiple image editing," adds McGlynn, "but I thought in this film, a little bit of it was a good idea, particularly when we had more than one camera roll."
The Silvertones clip ("Only Believe') features the group's incomparable lead singer, Claude Jeter, known for his masterful use of falsetto singing. Says Carpenter, "Nobody had recorded, in gospel music, with that kind of voice before, singing an entire song in falsetto, in that special way, with all its smoothness."
"It's a dual lead, with Louis Johnson," notes McGlynn. "I pretty much never tire of any of the clips in the movie, but that one, I'm still riveted by every time I watch it. It's the one I love the most."
If there is one name which is synonymous with Gospel music more than anyone, it is, of course, Mahalia Jackson. "She was the icon, the symbol of Gospel, no matter what religion or race you were," says the director. "Mahalia Jackson was Gospel music." Adds Smokey Robinson, "Just as many white people had Mahalia Jackson in their homes, listening to her, as black people did."
From her very first recording in 1937,
The intriguing story of Clara Ward and The Ward Singers is told, recounting the "mother of all stage mothers," Gertrude Ward. After failing to become a success as a soloist in the 1930s, Gertrude drove her daughters, Willa and Clara and their sisters, in a nonstop career that lasted decades. But whose career was it?
"She was the ultimate stage mother, living her failed artistic life through her children, suffocating them at the same time," explains McGlynn. Adds Lauro, "She basically sequestered Clara – she couldn't have a life. It was almost like Clara was enslaved by her. She was her mother's bread and butter."
Originally known as The Consecrated Gospel Singers and
Gertrude Ward and Daughters, the group quickly found success, singing not
only in churches, but in nightclubs and
A fashionable move among promoters – even in the Gospel world – was to put two popular groups on the same bill, competing in an apparent "rivalry." Such was the case with two unsighted favorites from the South, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi ("I'm Leaning on the Lord" from 1965) and The Blind Boys of Alabama ("Something Got Ahold of Me" from 1964). "You'd see that a lot in the blues world," explains Lauro. "They always had this ‘rivalry' between, say, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, calling it ‘The Battle of The Blues.' But they were good friends – there was a little bit of a rivalry, but they played it up. It was the same thing with the Gospel groups. They toured in a very defined Gospel circuit, and promoters would come up with ideas like this, as a way to sell tickets."
Theatrics, Lauro says, was always a part of the show. "You could get a performer, writhing on the ground and singing in tongues, and then you could see them backstage, drinking a Coke and talking to their friends 15 minutes later. But the people in the audience were the ones being taken to the hospital!"
McGlynn, having seen The Blind Boys of Alabama many times in person, knows the power of their performance. "They're absolutely electrifying. Both groups are. That's one of the great legacies of the 1950s Gospel scene. They just really ripped it up."
There was no way to follow either of them on a bill, he notes. "One day, I was in L.A., and I saw three acts who were all in town for the Grammy Awards – Rambling Jack Elliott, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Merle Haggard. The Blind Boys tore the place apart, and then the headliner, Merle Haggard, had to come out and perform right after them. I learned a big, big lesson that night – the way you follow The Blind Boys of Alabama is you don't go out for a long time."
While The Staple Singers are most-known to modern audiences for their 1970s hits, like "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself," they had, more than 20 years prior, established themselves as Gospel singers. Led by Rosebuck "Pops " Staples and his trademark guitar playing, the group, comprised of son Pervis and daughters Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis, first began recording for labels such as Chicago-based Vee-Jay and others after performing in area churches in the late 40s.
Pops introduced a blues guitar style into the otherwise-a cappella act, which he had learned years earlier, alongside blues legends Charlie Patton and Howlin' Wolf, growing up on a plantation called Dockery Farms in rural Mississippi. "Delta blues style," Joe Lauro corrects. "It's absolutely apparent in his guitar playing – just wonderfully droney, completely rhythmic."
Pops, Pervis and Cleotha can be seen singing behind lead singer Mavis in an early television clip from "Folks Songs and More Folks Songs." On a visit to another television stage, the group met a young folk singer named Bob Dylan, who was already a fan of the Staples. "The folk era really embraced those Gospel groups," says Lauro. "It was about equality, and it was happening during the civil rights movement. And it was the first time that a lot of these people started playing outside of the church. And certainly for white people."
Says McGlynn, "Mavis thinks that the greatest period of their career is represented in these clips, which is when it was just the four of them, with Pops Staples on guitar."
Another great voice of the era was James Cleveland, who
got his start with Thomas A. Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson, before landing his
own career as a Gospel singer.
"I've never seen a more stirring, emotional, roof-raising performance in my
life," notes McGlynn, who saw
Cleveland was also known for his Gospel Music Workshops, helping teach the business of being a Gospel performer to young artists. "Most people really had to scrape by to make their money. And there were so many promoters that would get you there to the event, and then just run off with the receipts, and you'd never see them again. Marie Knight told me that had happened to her far too many times. James Cleveland helped formulate things, so that happened less often."
The Edwin Hawkins Singers were another group that represented the bigger picture in the civil rights and folk movements. Though they did have an enormous hit with "Oh, Happy Day," as seen in a rare performance from 1971, they were well-known for their purely Gospel recordings, such as "Shine Your Light" and "Worship the Lord."
While Pastor Andraé Crouch can most often nowadays be seen preaching to his parishioners at the New Christ Memorial, Church of God in Christ in San Fernando, CA., his career began as a performer and songwriter – and as a bona fide "sex symbol" – in the 1970s. "This man is a modern day hymn writer," says Bill Carpenter. "He has written songs which you'd swear were written 200 years ago. But he wrote them just 30 years ago," including "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," which has been recorded by over 200 artists. He is seen here performing "I Just Want to Know You" in a television performance from Jubilee Showcase from the 1970s.
Though still writing music, Crouch's emphasis remains spiritual, as McGlynn found out when interviewing the preacher. "I came in there, going, ‘Well, maybe you can tell us a little about all these people, etc.,' and he just kept resisting that. What he ended up doing, more and more, as we were talking, was just being a preacher. He said, for instance, ‘You know, I met Mahalia Jackson once, and we were talking about doing a record. But that's not gonna be good for your movie.' And then he started preaching some more. And I just thought that was really great. I admired him for that."
Gospel music is not a thing of the past – it is alive and well, and still delivering new voices to carry its spiritual message of love and faith to those who seek to be uplifted or to share their joy. While Gospel has gone through everything from the digital age to hip-hop, The Selvy Family, introduced at the beginning of the film, and Darrel Petties, represent the current crop of traditional Gospel performers.
"We wanted to show the next generation of Gospel singers," Lauro explains. "And Darrel truly is that – he's still in his 20s and is immensely popular."
The two groups – The Selvys and Petties, with his choir and band – were filmed at the Greater Community Temple, Church of God in Christ, in Memphis, whose sign boasts the slogan, "This Church is Prayer Conditioned." Using a four-camera HD video shoot, McGlynn – operating one of the cameras himself – captures, as Petties described earlier, "the hand-clapping and the foot-stomping, and the sweating" that comes with the greatest of Gospel music.
Even so, says Joe Lauro, of the Selvys, "What they do onstage just hints at their show. Never mind their amazing voices – when they perform, they've got this doll they've stuffed, representing the devil, and they throw it and stomp the thing! I tell you, you get more bang for your buck at these Gospel shows, just for the sheer excitement!" he laughs. "They're just truly one of the great groups out there."
As production on the film was wrapping in late 2008,
McGlynn and Lauro were looking for the perfect way to close the movie – and
they found it in the form of a young African-American man and his wife from
"We didn't want to create some sort of artificial
conclusions to make the film work," the director recalls.
"We were all done with the picture, and then. . . Obama won.
And Eamonn and Joe and I all said, ‘You know. . . the movie isn't
quite done.'" Adding Obama's
acceptance of the election results gave them closure to the story of how far
African-Americans had traveled from the days of slavery in
THE DINWIDDIE COLORED QUARTET
In October 1902, these performers from
This vocal group was featured in the very first African-American religious film clip with sound. It was produced in 1922 by the visionary scientific genius Lee Deforest. Deforest pioneered a revolutionary sound on film process and made several experimental films with sound, well before The Jazz Singer. (1927).
THE GOLDEN GATE QUARTET
The Golden Gate Quartet was an a cappella Jubilee group, and due to their innovative, smooth and refreshing sound, became extraordinarily popular. Started in 1934, the group made numerous hit records and, because of their widely-heard weekly CBS radio program, became perhaps the most popular Gospel group of the time. They were the first African-Americans to perform at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 inauguration.
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
An excellent singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe enjoyed extraordinary success. It was very unusual for a woman to also be a preacher AND a guitarist. She had astounding success in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and had many million sellers, which successfully combined Gospel themes in Big Band and Blues arrangements.
A groundbreaking vocal group that started in 1928, The Dixie Hummingbirds innovated the vocal group format by using a double lead rather than just one voice, made intricate, complicated vocal arrangements, and did elaborate choreography. They had a phenomenal continuity; one of the lead singers, Ira Tucker, started with the group in 1937 when he was 13 years old, and remained a member until his death in 2008.
THE SWAN SILVERTONES
Claude Jeter's inimitable falsetto lead vocals helped define The Swans as perhaps the most distinctive of all vocal groups. Their adventurous sense of rhythm and time, as well as their daring arrangements, made them not only successful recording artists but also a favorite of the critics.
THE CLARA WARD SINGERS
Gertrude Ward was the ultimate stage mother and she guided her daughters Clara and Willa to become enormous stars: first with earth-shaking presentations at Gospel conventions, then by hugely successful records like "How I Got Over." Uncharacteristic of other Gospel groups, the Ward Singers wore elaborate gowns, many of them hand sewn by Gertrude, and had wild hairstyles. This helped introduced them into the world of nightclubs, television and
THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF
THE STAPLE SINGERS
Pops Staples learned to play Blues guitar from both Charley Patton and Howlin' Wolf when he lived on Dockery Farms in
REVEREND JAMES CLEVELAND
THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS
The Hawkins Family was full of great talent, and their surprise worldwide hit "Oh Happy Day" put the Berkeley, California-based Edwin Hawkins Singers on the map. While considered a one hit wonder in the pop music world, the Edwin Hawkins Singers had numerous hits in the Gospel community. Other family members like Tremaine and Walter also had huge hits during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
The young Andrae Crouch spoke with a lisp, which disappeared when he sang. He went on to be perhaps the strongest voice in all of Gospel music during the late 1970s and 1980s, with his soul-filled and extremely well produced music, which was loaded with inventive use of different musical styles in his dense arrangements. He has won many Grammys, but prefers to concentrate on being a Pastor in his church, fulfilling his role as a shepherd.
THE SELVY FAMILY
This group proves the truism "The family that prays together stays together." With a father who serves as preacher and a mother who sings, this large family is full of musical talent. They can both honor and sing in the great Gospel tradition, but the musical accompaniment can also reflect Hip Hop sounds.
DON MCGLYNN – Director
Don McGlynn was born in
While at USC, he hosted many film retrospectives at which he invited Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Sam Fuller, Don Siegal, Walter Murch, Roger Corman and many others to present their work.
During his time at USC, McGlynn filmed and edited FAT CHANCE, which won over 30 awards including the Cine Eagle, and edited FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, based on the Mozart short opera THE IMPRESSARIO, which won the Student Academy Award® from the AMPAS.
His documentaries have been presented at over 200 international film festivals and have won a number of awards. His directing credits include THE HOWLIN' WOLF STORY (2003), THE LEGEND OF TEDDY EDWARDS (2001), LOUIS PRIMA: THE WILDEST! (1999), CHARLES MINGUS: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOG (1998), DEXTER GORDON: MORE THAN YOU KNOW (1996), GLENN MILLER: AMERICA'S MUSICAL HERO (1992), THE SPIKE JONES STORY (1988), THE SOUNDIES (1986), THE MILLS BROTHERS STORY (1986), ART PEPPER: NOTES FROM A JAZZ SURVIVOR (1982).
JOE LAURO – Producer
Since graduating from NYU Tisch School of the Arts' Film Program in 1983, Joe Lauro worked as a musical director on THE TEN YEAR LUNCH (1988), Academy Award® winner for Best Feature Documentary, and as a consultant and associate producer on numerous projects including several for Ken Burns' Florentine Films. He founded Historic Film Archives in 1991 and today it is regarded as holding the most extensive collection of American music on film and video in the world. His clients include everyone from the Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese to Time Life Music and VH1.
Lauro is also an award-winning filmmaker and has produced and directed numerous music documentaries including the following with director Don McGlynn: HAROLD ARLEN: SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW (producer, 1999), LOUIS PRIMA: THE WILDEST! (producer, 2000), THE HOWLIN' WOLF STORY (producer, 2002). Lauro has more recently directed the following projects: THE SUPREMES: REFLECTIONS (2006, Universal), THE ORIGINAL SOUL MEN: SAM AND DAVE (2008, Universal), REACH OUT: THE FOUR TOPS STORY (2008, Universal), I AM RICK JAMES (2009, Universal), THE PANIC IS ON (2009, Shanachie) and MOTOWN 50, (2010, Universal)..
CELIA MINGUS ZAENTZ – Associate Producer
Along with her then husband Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Celia Mingus Zaentz was a founder of Debut Records, which was one of the first artist-run record companies. Later, she worked at Fantasy Records, and was married to Saul Zaentz – the film producer perhaps best known as the 3-time Best Picture Oscar winner for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, AMADEUS and THE ENGLISH PATIENT.
Mingus Zaentz was the executive producer of LOUIS PRIMA: THE WILDEST and THE HOWLIN' WOLF STORY. In addition to these films, Zaentz was also the executive producer on HORACE PARLAN BY HORACE PARLAN (2000), THE LEGEND OF TEDDY EDWARDS (2001), and SPIDER JOHN KOERNER: BEEN HERE…DONE THAT (2005) and ED THIGPEN: MASTER OF TIME, RHYTHM AND TASTE (2009) which were all produced and directed by Don McGlynn.
Magnolia Pictures presents
"REJOICE AND SHOUT'
Ira Tucker Jr.
Jacquie Gayles Webb
The Selvy Family
Directed by Don McGlynn
Produced by Joe Lauro
Associate Producer Celia Mingus Zaentz
Executive Producers Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner
Editor Frank Axelson