Pace Jubilee Singers

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In 1871, the ancient Hebrew word "Jubilee" was applied to an African-American vocal ensemble by a music teacher at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. The word carried a reference to the freeing of slaves…
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In 1871, the ancient Hebrew word "Jubilee" was applied to an African-American vocal ensemble by a music teacher at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. The word carried a reference to the freeing of slaves that reached back thousands of years. Touring to raise money for their college, the Fisk Jubilee Singers also established a precedent for the refined, dignified presentation of art songs and spirituals. By the 1920s, the example they set had inspired quite a number of predominately religious ensembles, including the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, the Dixie Jubilee Singers, the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers, and the Pace Jubilee Singers. This last group was named for their founder Charles Henry Pace (1886-1963), who by the mid-'20s was mainly active as composer and publisher of religious songs. An ex-student of W.E. Du Bois, Pace moved to Memphis from Atlanta in 1905 to serve as editor of Du Bois' short-lived periodical the Moon Illustrated Weekly. In 1907, Pace was working as cashier at the Solvent Savings Bank on Beale Avenue when he met W.C. Handy. For years, the two men would collaborate as composers and music publishers, and the Pace & Handy Music Company was founded in 1913, even as Pace sought financial stability by relocating to Atlanta where, like composer Charles Ives, he worked in the life insurance business. In 1921, Pace & Handy dissolved their partnership, and Pace established the Pace Phonograph Company, soon to be known as Black Swan Records. He also became adept as a publisher of Christian melodies, including his own airs and arrangements of traditional spirituals. With Pace as his publisher, hokum bluesman Georgia Tom broke with his longtime collaborator Tampa Red and crossed over to become an exclusively religious artist under the name of Thomas A. Dorsey. According to Memphis musicologist David Evans, Dorsey and Charles Albert Tindley were able to become established in their own careers thanks largely to the groundwork laid by Charles Henry Pace. Several of Tindley's tunes show up in the Pace Jubilee discography, including "Leave It There," "Stand by Me," and "Nothing Between." The Pace Jubilee Singers made their recordings -- more than 40 sides -- during the years 1926-1929. Most of these have been reissued by the Document label. They are most significant for the voice of featured soloist Hattie Parker, whose widely imitated sonorities and sensitive handling of spiritual lyrics would later become manifest in the work of the great Mahalia Jackson.