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Researching the Story of Gospel Music in the West

folkwaysAlive! at the University of Alberta is sponsoring a three-year research project to explore the history of gospel music in Western Canada. Dr Carl Urion, folkwayAlive! Research Fellow, is responsible for this project.

We’ll search public archives and create some of our own, but the priority is to record interviews. It’s especially important to document the contribution of the people whose lives have been devoted to this music and who have given the tradition its finest expression here.

We also need to find out how current artists, musicians, and promoters view the history and the future of gospel music. Most of the interviews during these first 3 years will be in Alberta, though some will take place in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. If there is enough interest, other projects could follow.

Two kinds of videorecording—several field recordings and a few production quality recordings of gospel music events—will be part of the project. (Performers will retain rights, but will allow folkwaysAlive! to archive the recordings for research and scholarly use.)

Western Canadian gospel music crosses boundaries

The history of gospel music in Western Canada is a history of music that crosses human boundaries. Even during times of conflict and social upheaval, people of the different communities of Western Canada heard each other sing, learned from each other, sang for each other, and sang together. Each community has distinct traditions but together we have also shared musical styles and songs.

For example, the first publications of any kind in Western Canada, in the 1840s and 1850s, were collections of gospel songs and hymns in Cree. (“We’re Marching to Zion” was one.) The singing of gospel songs has been a tradition in First Nations and Metis communities, from the campmeetings of the 19th century right up to the present. Today there are First Nations and Metis gospel music jamborees, concerts and special events in all four western provinces, Nunavut, and the NWT.

Winnipeg, Turtleford, Maidstone, Amber Valley, Wildwood, Edmonton, Vancouver: those are centres in the four Western provinces where Black gospel music has rung out for well over 100 years. The much older African-Canadian communities of Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario are represented here, and more recent immigrants from the Americas and Africa have influenced the development of African-Canadian gospel traditions in the West.

The first publisher of American gospel music, in 1816 in Virginia, was Joseph Funk, a Mennonite. Several Mennonite traditions in Western Canada are heir to the same songs and singing styles that were practiced in American Appalachia in the 19th century. Mennonite musical traditions have been central to the development of gospel music in Ontario since the early 1800s, and in Western Canada from 1874 onwards, far beyond the Mennonite movement itself.

The Bible schools of the Western provinces played a major role in keeping gospel music alive in the West, especially the male and mixed quartets and the women’s trios. Some of the singing groups from the Bible schools went on to international success.

Gospel music was broadcast in Western Canada on the radio and later on television, but live music has kept the tradition going.

Our heritage groups were born of those traditions. Do you have ideas about ways to honour the groups who followed the call to sing gospel music, and the many who took to the road to do so?

Those heritage gospel singing groups have been blessing Western Canadians for more than 80 years with recordings of southern, country, bluegrass and traditional gospel music. Is there any interest in seeing that the recorded music of the 20th century remains available in public collections and that the stories of gospel singing groups, song writers, and promoters are told?

No Boundaries Here. A 1913 campmeeting in Edmonton, led by W.H. Smith, an African-American gospel singer and preacher. He headed the All Nations Mission in Edmonton between 1906 and 1914, where the singing and preaching were in English, German and Cree. W.H. Smith is 6th from the right in the middle row. (From H.C. Heffren, Voices of the Pioneers, Devon, AB: Bible Lovers’ Correspondence School, n.d., used by permission.)


We need your ideas about how this project can serve the gospel music community.

We need to identify other people who may be interested in this project or who are working on similar projects.

We need to be in touch with people who find this topic interesting, or who have a story to contribute.

We need to identify musicians, singers, promoters and supporters. What groups have been important in different areas over the years?

We need to locate resources: where are the old recordings, promotional materials, songbooks, sheet music, clippings and programs?

We need to find out ways to make that material accessible to others, while ensuring the rights of the people who created the music and produced the recordings.

To find out more please get in touch.

Contact Carl at folkwaysAlive! or at home.
3-47 Arts Building, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E6
Leave messages at 780 492-7887 (on campus)
home office 780 465 7881
fax 780 465 7828

‘Stars’ push businesses to hire young workforce

A group of young Scots is urging bosses to grow their businesses with help from the Scottish Government.

is currently undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship in signwriting, Vijay Singh took part in a placement as part of the Certificate of Work Readiness and Gregor Connor’s employer recruited him with financial support from the Youth Employment Scotland Fund.

And now the three are starring in a publicity campaign to make more employers aware of the funding available and encourage more business leaders to recruit young people.

, started her Modern Apprenticeship at OPG Ltd and is one of a replica cheap Michael Kors small number of people learning the traditional trade.

The 19 year old who lives in Strathaven, said: “I started my Modern Apprenticeship when I left school so I didn’t have any work experience, but I was ready for a job and just wanted the opportunity.

“My training has been great, it has given me the chance to experience the workplace but it has also helped me learn skills that benefit me and my employer. I know I’m lucky to be working, there’s so many other people like me who would love to have this opportunity and have so much to offer employers.”

OPG’s Commercial Operations Manager Stuart Ritchie believes recruiting young school leavers and developing their skills has been a benefit to the business.

He said: “Kirsty is one of the first four apprentices we took on discount michael kors and it’s worked really well and I would say it certainly increases our profitability.

“As a small business it has also been a great help to receive funding to take on apprentices and we’ll continue with the programme for as long as it’s offered.”

Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment, Angela Constance said: “Scotland has an enthusiastic pool of young people ready to make their mark in the workplace but too many leave education and struggle to find employment.

“While many business leaders realise the benefits of recruiting young people, the Scottish Government understands that they may cheap Michael Kors face barriers to taking on school leavers.

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer at the Business Gateway National Unit, added: “Recruitment is an important element in a company’s growth strategy and there is no doubt young workers have a huge amount to offer potential employers.

“At Business Gateway our cheap michael kors handbags advisers have the skills and experience to support businesses through each stage of the process and we can also signpost employers to a network of organisations and initiatives, such as michael kors cheap the Youth Employment Scotland Fund, that can help them take on a young recruit.”

Case studiesThe signs are looking good for a creative South Lanarkshire teenager to complete her Modern Apprenticeship training this summer.

is employed by Lesmahagow company OPG and is one of a small number of young people who are gaining qualifications in the traditional trade of signwriting.

The 19 year old began working for the company when cheap replica michael kors she left Strathaven Academy and found it interesting right from the start.

She said: “I had done my work experience here which is what first got me wanting to work in signwriting and I’ve always been quite creative.

“The way the Modern Apprenticeship is organised makes it even more interesting because there’s always something new here and the constant challenges keep it really fresh.”

She particularly enjoys working her way through job packs organised by her trainer, who comes out to the company to provide the training on site.

Kirsty, who lives in Strathaven, said: “The job packs are a step by step guide of what we do.

“I have to cover all the points to complete each one and it’s a great team here cheap michael kors so I replica michael kors have no worries about asking for help.

“I’m really excited about finishing Michael Kors handbag outlet my Modern Apprenticeship and carrying on working here because I feel I cheap Michael Kors have something to show for my hard work.

“It can be difficult to get jobs round here; especially jobs which help you work towards qualifications.”

OPG’s Commercial Operations Manager Stuart Ritchie believes the Modern Apprenticeship approach to training is second to none.

He said: “Kirsty is one of the first four apprentices we took on and it’s worked really well and I would say it certainly increases our profitability. We’ll continue with the programme for as long as it’s offered.”Articles Connexes:

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