By Robert M. Marovich
Marovich follows gospel song from early hymns and camp conferences during the nice Migration that introduced it to Chicago. In time, the tune grew into the sanctified soundtrack of the city's mainline black Protestant church buildings. as well as drawing on print media and ephemera, Marovich mines hours of interviews with approximately fifty artists, ministers, and historians--as good as discussions with kinfolk and buddies of prior gospel pioneers--to get well many forgotten singers, musicians, songwriters, and leaders. He additionally examines how an absence of monetary chance bred an entrepreneurial spirit that fueled gospel music's upward push to acceptance and opened a gate to social mobility for a few its practitioners. As Marovich indicates, gospel tune expressed a craving for freedom from earthly pains, racial prejudice, and life's hardships. in spite of everything, it proved to be a legitimate too amazing and too joyous for even church partitions to hold.
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Extra resources for A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music
The humble space was adorned with whatever furnishings the pastor and the members could afford at the time. ”5 To this list one can add a comfortably appointed seat for the pastor and a potbelly stove to warm the congregation during bone-chilling Chicago winters. The front window would be adorned with a hand-printed sign identifying the church and its founder and pastor, a favorite Bible passage or motto, times of service, and a welcome message. Like brush arbor meetings or praise houses, the sanctuary’s physical appearance was secondary to the reason for gathering: the preaching, praising, shouting, healing, breaking through, collection, and altar call.
Born January 23, 1902, in Yazoo, Mississippi, Eleazar Lenox grew up on his family’s farm in Terrell, Arkansas. In 1921, with no opportunities available for a sharecropper’s son in the Jim Crow South, Lenox joined the exodus to Chicago. 23 In 1925, twenty-three-year-old Eleazar accepted the pastorate of the small COGIC church at 1865 West Carroll Avenue when its founding minister, COGIC pastor Thomas Farley, retired. Carroll Avenue Church, as it was called, served migrants who had moved to the city’s West Side to work in the nearby factories.
His “Prize-Winning and Radio Choir” from Metropolitan Community Church represented the apex of middle-class classical artistry in Chicago’s black community. Their repertory, comportment, and prestige embodied the spirit of racial uplift as well as the economic and social aspirations of middle-class black Chicago. The ensemble was one of the first black choirs to record, to be heard on radio, to perform before a mixed audience, and to win a major choral competition. They performed arranged spirituals and wellknown choral literature by western European and African American composers.
A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music by Robert M. Marovich