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The Fisk Jubilee Singers


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Adapted from the writings of John W. Work, III

The story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers is one of America's great epics. The achievements of this history-making group have been chronicled several times by some of the country's leading magazines and publishers.

Their story begins October 6, in the year 1871. Fisk University had been founded five years prior to this date in Nashville, Tennessee, in the most humble of circumstances but in high hopes of making a significant cultural contribution to that area of the country. Very early after its founding serious financial problems began to plague the young university and the administration became fearful for its further continuance. Greatly increased financial aid, more friends, and a wider sphere of influence were critical needs.

The treasurer of the institution, George L. White, a sensitive amateur musician had listened to the informal singing of the students and had been strongly impressed by the beauty of their voices and the pathos of the songs they sang. He saw promising artistic results in the proper combination of these. White gave an inspired fusion to these beautiful voices and songs. He selected eleven of the best voices, which he molded into a fine choral ensemble. He made plans for a concert tour for this group, which was first named The Fisk Christian Singers.

The little group of singers left Nashville on October 6, 1871 to begin an adventure that is without precedent in American musical or educational annals. The first concerts were given in Ohio cities. The reports of the response of the first curiosity, and some expected hostility characterized this early audience response. However repeated concerts by the Singers saw the undesired reactions replaced by tremendously enthusiastic audience response, which finally reached the stage of ovations.

Very shortly the Singers found themselves in great demand throughout the North and East. Huge audiences greeted them everywhere. The newspapers showered them with unqualified praise. And what was most significant, important and devoted friends were created by the hundreds. Financial returns exceeded their highest hopes. The tour, which began with such uncertainty and precariousness, now emerged as a tremendous triumph. A New York minister wrote after a concert "I never saw a cultivated assemblage so moved and melted under the magnetism of music before." The Singers found that in New Haven the greatest minister in America, Henry Ward Beecher was scheduled for a public lecture on the same night as their concert. A large overflow audience greeted them there which was early added to by Reverend Beecher himself who had found only a handful of people at his lecture, whom he quickly dismissed.

Early on their tour George L. White received the inspiration to change the name of the group from Fisk Christian Singers to Fisk Jubilee Singers and their folk songs to Jubilee songs. These names have lasted.

Selections from the Fisk Jubilee Singers Songbook

A great Camp meeting in the promised land

A Happy New Year

A little more faith in Jesus

Anchor in the Lord

Angels waiting at the door

Been a listening

Children, we all shall be free

Chilly Water

come, all of God's children

Come down, angels

Come, let us all go down

Deep River

Did not old Pharaoh get lost?

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel

Don't you grieve after me

Down by the River

Farewell, my brother

From every Grave-yard

Gabriel's Trumpet's going to blow

Getting read to die

'Gideon's Band

Give me Jesus Go down, Moses

Go, chain the Lion down

Good-bye, Brothers

Good news, the chariot's coming

Good old Chariot


Gwine to ride up in the Chariot

Hard Trials

He Arose

He's the lily of the Valley

I ain't got weary yet

I know that my redeemer lives

I'm a rolling I'm a travelling to the grave I'm so glad

I'm troubled in mind

I want to be ready; or, walk in Jerusalem just like John

In Bright Mansions above

In the River of Jordan

In that great getting-up morning

I've been in the storm so long

I've just come from the Fountain

Keep me from sinking down

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning

Listen to the Angels

Lord's Prayer

Mary and Martha

My good Lord's been here

My Lord, what a mourning

My way's cloudy

Nobody knows the trouble I see

Oh, give me the wings

Oh, wasn't that a wide river

Old ship of Zion

O Redeemed

O! Sinner Man

Peter, go ring them bells

Ride on, King Jesus

Rise and Shine

Rise, Mourners

Rise, shine, for thy light is a-coming

Roll, Jordan, roll

Run to Jesus

Shine, shine

Sweet Canaan

Show me the way

Some of these mornings

Steal away

Swing low, sweet Chariot

The Gospel train

The Rocks and the Mountains

The Angels changed my Name

There's a meeting here to-night

They led my Lord away

This Old Time Religion

Wait a little while

Way over Jordan

We are climbing the hills of Zion

We'll stand the storm

We shall walk thro' the valley

What kind of shoes are you going to wear

When Moses smote the water

When shall I get there

Wrestling Jacob

Zion's Children

The WINGS OVER JORDAN CHOIR (WOJC), a prominent African American choir during the late 1930s and early 1940s, made broadcast history with the first independently produced national and international radio programs created by AFRICAN AMERICANS. The group made contributions to choral music and the improvement of race relations. The choir was founded in 1935 by the Rev. GLENN T. SETTLE , pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church on E. 30th and Scovill Ave. in Cleveland. Rev. Settle believed in using Negro spirituals to spread Christianity. He promoted establishing a radio program to address the Negro community and introduce the non-Negro to the Negro experience. In 1937, the ensemble performed weekly on the "Negro Hour" over RADIO station WGAR, a CBS affiliate. It soon became a hit.

On 9 Jan. 1938 the group adopted the [Image][Image] name Wings Over Jordan Choir and The Wings Over Jordan national broadcasting began. WOJC Choir, ca. 1940s. WRHS. performed a decade long series of weekly, sometimes daily, programs for CBS and WGAR exclusively. WOJC was the first full-time professional black choir in America. At its height, the choir performed before sold-out, non-segregated audiences in over 40 states, 5 European countries, Canada, and Mexico. During WORLD WAR II, under USO sponsorship, WOJC toured Army camps in Europe. WOJC's fame resulted in the publication of a songbook and record album, a movie contract, performances with major symphony orchestras, and an invitation to sing at the White House. The choir received numerous honors, including radio's prestigious Peabody Award. It was instrumental in preserving authentic Negro spirituals and became the universal voice.


Over My Head

Trying To Get Ready

I've Been 'buked

I'm going to sit at the welcome table

I cried and I cried


Where shall I be when the first trumpet sounds


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