Gospel music exhibit opens at library

Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 3:38 p.m.
Gospel music to lift the spirit was the order of the day at the opening presentation of the ''Golden Era of Gospel Music'' exhibit.
The presentation was held Sunday afternoon at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters in downtown Gainesville. On display until March 1 in conjunction with Black History Month, the exhibit traces the evolution of gospel music from the 1940s to the 1960s through photography, text and music, and describes the importance of gospel music in black communities in the United States.
Sherry DuPree, a professor of student development instruction at Santa Fe Community College, began collecting gospel music in 1988, and her research resulted in the exhibit.
"This exhibit has been featured at the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Detroit, and at the NAACP's Freedom Weekend as well as in schools in the U.S. and Canada," said DuPree. "This is a traveling exhibit and on the road year-round for more than 10 years. From here, it will go to the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach for three months.''
DuPree said she interviewed musicians and acquired material from private collections representing gospel music groups from every region of the United States.
In addition to the presentation by DuPree, there were musical performances.
Phillis Filer, a public service administrator at the library who served as the mistress of ceremony, introduced the various soloists and choirs. They included the Rev. Barbara Linton, local elder of Mount Olive AME Church, who sang a cappella in a powerful and harmonious voice that got the crowd clapping to the beat and the Coro de Iglesia Evangelica Bautista (the choir of the Evangelist Baptist Church), which sang Spanish gospel songs.
Choir members from Compassionate Outreach Ministries heightened the spirit a notch with their rendition of "Oh Happy Day." Leon Young of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church sang a cappella songs that he said he heard his parents and grandparents sing and hum.
Filer expressed satisfaction with the events of the day.
"It is so good when the spirit is in the house,'' she said. ''It brings a smile to the face and peace to the heart. Gospel music makes you want to get involved and gets you excited."
Isabel Barten, who attended the exhibit opener, said, "The singing was fabulous. I was impressed to see the long range of styles represented. It clarified the history of gospel music for me. It was great to see local people performing. The musical talent is the best part of our community."
When asked when and how she developed her passion for collecting gospel music, DuPree said she learned to play the piano when she was 3 years old, and at the age of 16, she began singing in the school choir in North Carolina.
As a choir member, DuPree sang, played the piano and the E-flat, an instrument in the French horn family. The group cut a record in Nashville and toured outside North Carolina, with the proceeds going to help purchase a school bus, curtains for the stage, and other things the school needed.
"Black schools did not have anything and this was a good way to raise money," said DuPree, a Smithsonian fellow in gospel music and an archivist for the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
In 1993, DuPree co-authored a book about gospel music with husband, Herbert DuPree, titled, "African American Good News Music."
During the presentation, DuPree told the audience that gospel music was preserved by the Methodist churches writing down the songs and the communities adding or subtracting to those songs.
She then gave a brief history of gospel music, starting from 1650, when the slaves working in the fields sang to make their labor bearable, and ending with the '60s, the golden era of gospel music.
''The turnout was great,'' DuPree said. ''The people were interested, and we could not have asked for better talent."
003: Rev. Barbara Linton sang a cappella "To Praise the Lord."
005: The Coro de Iglesia Evangelista Bautista sang Spanish gospel music 008: Leon Young sang a cappella songs that were personal as they were the songs he heard his parents and grandparents sing and hum 009: The Compassionate Outreach Ministries Choir raised the spirit with their rendition of "Oh Happy Day."

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