Note: Congregation singing while Alan Lomax narrates events. The recording begins with one unidentified hymn followed the two well-known hymns “Only Jesus Knows” and “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.” The performance style is characterised by dense heterophony and parallel harmonies, and the performance is punctuated by calls from Reverend Olsie Cowan. There are a number of pauses in the performances and occasionally bells are heard in the background. The recording cuts out intermittently during the performance (possibly a technical mishap). After the singing Rev. Cowan begins to recite Psalm 27 and the recording cuts out.
About the session: This session features both music and ritual performances by a congregation of Spiritual Baptists (or “Shouters”) led by Reverend Olsie Cowan. Spiritual Baptists form a religious sect whose musical system integrates Roman Catholic rituals and a number of disparate vocal styles, such as Yoruba songs, American spirituals, and Anglican hymns. Musical performances are characterized by dense heterophony and parallel vocal harmonization. Instruments are traditionally not used in these performances, though spontaneous bell ringing occurs throughout. Associated with this tradition are a number of song styles and performance techniques, such as trumpets (rousing choruses with specific movements and musical characteristics), lining out, doption, and spiritual shouts. These are used to adapt (and transform) Sankey hymns or Anglican tunes into a rhythmically and harmonically complex performance practice. Alan Lomax lists the congregants/participants in the field log: \Rev. Olsie Cowan: Syne Village, Siparia (Penal Settlement) in charge; John D. Smith and Medford Joshua (Priests); Bennette Baptist (Sexton); Percival Joshua (Treasurer): Florence Cowan (Mother Superior); Mary McSween (Mother Healer): Adris Matisse (Mother Assistant): Emelda Smith (Mother Assistant); Elena Paul, Sister Jacob (Nurses)." Alan Lomax notes: "The recording was made at the home of Mrs. Louise St. Hill at a thanksgiving service called by her in order 'to bring peace' in her family. The group of shouters came from Syne Village and was led by Rev. Olsie Cowan, minister of the Baptist church there. During the service the Mother Healer (McSween) was watchman: she stood at the doorway and performed numerous rites and was several times 'in the power' falling onto the floor on occasions. During 'doption' the singing was reduced to mere humming noises resembling grunting. This was accompanied with dancing, jigging, waving of hands, swaying and a variety of body movements."
The rights to the audio, photographic, and video materials contained within the Lomax Digital Archive are administered by various publishers, record labels, collectors, estates, and other rights holders. Any uses, commercial or not, must be cleared by the specific rights holders. For questions regarding the use of any material on the LDA, please contact Permissions.
Do you have something to add, or do you see an error in this record? We'd love to
hear from you.