The latest issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “The Whitfield Sound: Unearthing Foundational Elements of Contemporary Gospel Music” by Brandon Waddles. You can read it in its entirety online at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction
Toward the latter half of the twentieth century there was a focal shift in the gospel music scene. The city of Detroit, a major transportation hub during the Great Migration along with Chicago, the birthplace of Black gospel music, produced a new crop of gospel musicians with fresh ideas. Rev. Charles Craig, Rev. James Cleveland, Rev. Charles Nicks, and Dr. Mattie Moss Clark were chief among those who helped to create the sophisticated sound of gospel music that Detroit became known for, compared to the more visceral utterings of Chicago’s home-grown traditional style.
Thomas Whitfield (1954-1992), a Detroit native, was born and reared during the height of this new era of classic gospel music. What he heard and experienced inside and outside of the church inspired him to foster a style of gospel music that would permeate the scene and redefine the genre in myriad ways, including harmony, compositional structure, and textual significance. The sound Whitfield forged in the last two decades of his life is the predominant aural aesthetic of contemporary gospel music.
The defining features of the Whitfield Sound are as follows:
1) the redefining of the choral sound in gospel music;
2) the blending of gospel, jazz, and classicism;
3) the creation of orchestral textures in gospel music; and
4) the deepening of intimacy in gospel song lyrics.
From a musical standpoint, sophistication and elegance lies at the foundation of Whitfield’s writing. From a spiritual standpoint, the message within him music was unadulterated in its intent and presentation. The Whitfield Sound is the sonic bridge between the gospel music of past and present.
View this full article (and more!) in the December 2020 issue of Choral Journal, available online at acda.org