Rejoice and Shout: movie review
The documentary ‘Rejoice and shout’ celebrates giants of gospel music and its God-centered heart.
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From a 1928 Fox Movietone newsreel, we see the fabled Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, taking a break from oyster shucking in Richmond, Va., singing "Do You Call That Religion." The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, from the 1930s, is shown mixing jazz elements into gospel, as Thomas A. Dorsey also did. The gospel historian Anthony Heilbut, interviewed in the film, remarks on how the Jubilee Quartet used their voices as instruments, and how you could always tell the difference on a recording between a white quartet and a black one. In the black quartets, each voice had an individual sound.Skip to next paragraph
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In addition to such famous performers as The Staples Singers, the ferociously rough-voiced the Rev. James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Crouch, and the legendary Mahalia Jackson, whose voice could indeed "reduce us to liquid," the film features, and in some cases resurrects, the reputations of such groups as The Dixie Hummingbirds, with their intricate vocal arrangements due in large part to Ira Tucker (who was interviewed in the film shortly before he died); and The Swan Silvertones, shown in a clip singing "Only Believe," showcasing its lead singer Claude Jeter and his incomparable falsetto.
Perhaps best of all are the clips of the ecstatically gifted Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was not only a preacher but a guitarist. In the late 1930s and early '40s she successfully combined gospel with big band and blues arrangements and was so influential that you can see her imprint in everybody from Elvis Presley and Little Richard to Johnny Cash, who always said she was his favorite singer.
The filmmakers don't skimp on the new generation of gospel singers either. They open with 10-year-old Jekalyn Carr, from the Selvy Family, singing “Amazing Grace” with a lived-in soulfulness that is positively unearthly. Because of her youth, she is – more than anybody else in the film – a testament to the momentous spirit that resides in this music. Grade: A (Rated PG for some mild thematic material and incidental smoking.)