Printer Friendly

We'll Understand It Better By and By: Pioneering African American Gospel Composers.

It may not be possible for Bernice Johnson Reagon to eclipse her considerable reputation as a performer with Sweet Honey in the Rock, an a capella group she founded. But We'll Understand it Better By and By: Pioneering African American Gospel Composers, which she edited for the Smithsonian Institution Press, should bring her even wider recognition.

Reagon, a Smithsonian curator in social and cultural history, has assembled a nearly definitive work, including essays on such gospel groundbreakers as Reverend Charles Albert Tindley, Lucie E. Campbell, Roberta Martin, William Herbert Brewster Sr., Kenneth Morris and the incomparable Thomas Dorsey.

Much has been written recently about the contributions of Dorsey, composer of "My Mind On Jesus" and "Precious Lord," among hundreds of gospel tunes, but few know of Dorsey's mentors and peers. They are delineated by such noted music scholars as Horace Clarence Boyer, Portia Maultsby and Pearl Villians-Jones, who died before the book was completed, and to whom it is dedicated.

Accompanying each essay on the pioneers are musical examples. These portions of notated music sheets with lyrics provide additional insight on each composer. Balancing Reagon's introduction, which explains the project and sets the tone, are an extensive discography and an annotated bibliography by Lisa Pertillar Brevard. At its core, We'll Understand combines a variety of approaches examining performance styles, musical qualities and social function.

The book provides an exciting overview of the rich, dynamic legacy of African-American worship and tradition. "It is the story of a people under stress," Reagon asserts, "searching for a more fertile ground for survival in a strange land."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Boyd, Herb
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Next Article:Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel.

Related Articles
Black American Music: Past and Present, 2d ed.
Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse.
King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era.
Why Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology.
The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States.
Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore.
Black Stars: African American Musicians.
Write Me A Few Of Your Lines: A Blues Reader.
Black and Not Protestant.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters