Spiritual Society Beginnings
The effort to collect and preserve spirituals in the Carolina Low Country commenced in the fall of 1922, when twenty young ladies and gentlemen in Charleston, S.C., met to sing songs they loved: African-American spirituals in the Gullah dialect. Having heard this powerful music all of their lives, they had deep feelings for its beautiful melodies, Gullah poetry, and Christian message.
In addition to the joy of singing, its members were animated by an important purpose. They feared that the congregational style of singing this music, like other oral traditions, would be lost and knew that it was being transformed. Printed hymnals were displacing spirituals in churches; contemporary musical trends (blues and jazz) were influencing instrumentation; and composers were arranging them for trained voices.
Determined to preserve the traditional style of performing this music, they resolved to collect the spirituals of the Carolina Low Country, to sing them as authentically as they could in Gullah, and to pass this tradition down to the next generation. To accomplish these goals, they formed the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals.
(Trimble, Trimble 1995, now playing.)