Press contact: Helen Dalrymple, Library of Congress (202) 707-1940
Public contact: (202) 707-5510

May 26, 2004

Gospel Music Featured at the Library of Congress

Gospel music will ring out at noon on June 15 from the Neptune Plaza of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., when the Paschall Brothers, an a cappella gospel quartet from Chesapeake, Va., present a free concert. The performance is part of the American Folklife Center's annual concert series, "Homegrown 2004: The Music of America."

The Paschall Brothers are masters of the classic Tidewater gospel sound, which is sung in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment. The style originated in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, the metropolitan region located at the convergence of the James River, the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.

Rev. Frank Paschall Sr. originally formed the ensemble in 1981 with his five sons: Frank Jr., Tarrence, Wendell, Dwight and William. After Frank Paschall Sr. died in 1999, the lead vocal work shifted primarily to Tarrence, but, as in many quartets, the vocal parts are traded among the members for different songs.

The Paschall Brothers stand firmly in the great tradition of unaccompanied religious singing in Tidewater Virginia. The black gospel quartet tradition can be traced back to plantation life in the American South. According to Alan Young, in his book "Woke Me Up This Morning," the first reference to black gospel quartets was made in 1851. The "modern" quartets were born in the late 1920s and early 1930s with the emergence of groups like the Heavenly Gospel Singers, the Blevins Quartet and, most notably, the Golden Gate Quartet of Norfolk, Va. Norfolk quickly became known as the "home of the quartet."

Though scarcely a handful of African American a cappella quartets sing in Virginia today, black four-part harmony groups were singing in Virginia at least as early as the mid-1800s, and the Tidewater region alone produced more than 200 such groups in the century following the Civil War.

The Paschall Brothers perform frequently at churches, social gatherings and festivals in the Tidewater area, including annual appearances at the Tidewater Gospel Festival held at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Recently the group has performed at several nationally known festivals, including the Lowell Folk Festival and the Roots of American Music Festival at Lincoln Center.

The Homegrown concert series presents the very best of traditional music and dance from a variety of folk cultures thriving in the United States. The series is co-sponsored by the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. Homegrown concerts are held once a month from April through December. The closest Metro stops to the Jefferson Building are Capitol South (blue and orange lines) and Union Station (red line).

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Visit the folklife center's Web site at www.loc.gov/folklife for more information.

Part of the Kennedy Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center's mission to make performing arts widely accessible by presenting free, 6 p.m. performances 365 days a year. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center Web site at http://kennedy-center.org.

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington was founded in 1964 to further the understanding, investigation, appreciation and performance of the traditional folk music and folklore of the American people. The FSGW presents more than 200 folk events in the Washington area each year.

Homegrown 2004: The Music of America Concert Series

  • July 14 - Oinkari Basque Dancers from Idaho, Neptune Plaza
  • Aug. 18 - Phong Nguyen Ensemble - Vietnamese music from Ohio, Coolidge Auditorium
  • Sept. 28 - 2004 NEA National Heritage Fellow - TBA, Neptune Plaza
  • Oct. 20 - Nadeem Dlaikan - Arabic music from Michigan, Coolidge Auditorium
  • Nov. 17 - American Indian Music and Dance Troupe from Oklahoma, Co-sponsored with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Coolidge Auditorium
  • Dec. 8 - Jerry Grcevich with Tamburitza Orchestra - Tambura music from Pennsylvania, Coolidge Auditorium

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PR 04-113
05/26/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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