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The Story Of Gospel

This show is a rebroadcast from June 7, 2011

A new documentary, “Rejoice and Shout,” explores gospel music from roots to right now. We’re listening.

Gospel music has come a long way since it became popular around 1900. Here, the Howard Gospel Choir performs in Stockholm. (US Embassy Sweden/Flikr)

Gospel music has come a long way since it became popular around 1900. Here, the Howard Gospel Choir performs in Stockholm. (US Embassy Sweden/Flikr)

You may think you know gospel music, and maybe you do. But it’s easy to get a tame, watered down version of the real deal.

A new documentary traces gospel back to plantation days and then into the heart of 20th century African American religion, culture and arts. Into its intersection with freedom, funk and ecstasy.

It’s called “Rejoice and Shout.” (Click here to see where and when the film is playing.)

And yes, it does.

This hour On Point: the roots and story of gospel music.

- Tom Ashbrook


Joe Lauro, producer of the new documentary film “Rejoice and Shout.” He’s president of Historic Films, a stock footage archive.

Bil Carpenter, gospel music historian and author of “UncloudyDays: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia.”

Sylvia Kinard, minister and gospel artist.

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  • Gregg Smith

    I suppose there are many ways to evoke emotion but IMO music is the best. Gospel music encapsulates the whole spectrum. It’s not the open voicings or the lyrics or the circular time of the backbeat, it’s swimming in the soup all of it makes. Gospel is healing. 

    I had the privilege to play with my dear friend Melissa on her 11th annual Christmas show in Boone, NC last week. Last year (I was not there) she was joined by a choir at a local Mennonite church. They had to have a special meeting to decide if it was acceptable to go into a bar but Melissa prevailed and they did. They were there again this year and started the show. It was Dec. 14, the night of the Newtowne tragedy. I didn’t hear about it until I was on the way to soundcheck. On two occasions in the last 30 years I have been on stage when people died in the room. I’ve played in a lot of tough situations but this was devastating. We began with a moment of silence (you could hear a pin drop) and then the choir sang. The feeling was amazing and the gospel music was driving it.

    I also got to play with them earlier this spring. Melissa was back in town after wintering in Arizona and invited me to play with her at  benefit. The cause was addiction to prescription drugs. The choir was at that gig too. They played and the room was joyous. Then a woman spoke. It was heart-wrenching. She told of her son’s struggle which started with a sprained ankle and ended with an overdose. She spoke for almost an hour. When she was done the room was completely silent and emotionally exhausted. That’s when Melissa and I went on. We had not seen each other in months so we went up cold and did Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love me”. Then Melissa called up the choir. Once again music healed the room. I am not a religious man but something happens that is spiritual and cannot be explained.

    I have not seen any video of the show last week but here’s one of Melissa with the choir last year. This is the same song they opened with after the moment of silence this year.


    Here is the show last spring when she called up the choir and their band:


    And here is just a jam with melissa, me and the choirs band. It’s nothing special but cool in the fact that it was spontaneous and improvised so it was a different element that what they were accustomed to. When Melissa takes off you better find something because the train is leaving the station.


    Merry Christmas everyone!

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