The Spirituals Database offers searchable access to recorded track information for concert Negro Spiritual settings performed by solo Classical vocalists. The resource contains a selection from a century of historic and contemporary concert spiritual recordings produced on compact discs, long-playing (33 1/3 rpm) albums, 78 rpm records, 45 rpm discs, audio cassettes and streamed audio files, as well as demonstration recordings from musical score collections. Additionally, the site offers a number of historical, biographical and bibliographical resources related to this African American music style. There are also links to images, videos and artistic creations inspired by the Negro spiritual.
Begin searching The Spirituals Database from the simple keyword search box or the advanced search link below:
Information about advanced search features is available on the How to Search page.
Major Changes to The Spirituals Database
I developed The Spirituals Database in 2015 in order to share research on recordings of concert spirituals for solo vocalists. Even then, however, my eventual goal was to see the results of that research become a printed resource. McFarland and Co. published the book, entitled Recorded Solo Concert Spirituals, 1916-2022 on May 4, 2023. One proviso the publisher required, however, was that some of the free content that I offered on The Spirituals Database could no longer be available for public access. While this affects the amount of individual track content available here, other information such as images and links to video and audio content will continue to display along with the reduced content. Also, this doesn’t affect Divaslair–that’s me, BTW–videos, slide presentations, or essays posted on The Spirituals Database.
The Spirituals Database and Recorded Solo Concert Spirituals, 1916-2022 each function independently. However, each resource supports the other, enhancing the level of available information when combined.
The Spirituals Database has undergone numerous changes recently, not only with the addition of uniform titles and more descriptive tags to make the search results even more complete, but with extensive changes to the look and functionality of the database overall. Most recently, my assessments of “composer not identified” entries and of dialect use for tracks added to The Spirituals Database after Recorded Solo Concert Spirituals, 1916-2022 was submitted for publication have now become accessible and searchable. These and other new track entries made after the book was published have a designation of NIB (not in book).
What Are Concert Spirituals?
Below is a documentary about concert spirituals categorized by song theme, from sorrow songs to songs of transcendence. Each category is followed by a recording by:
- “I Cannot Stay Here by Myself” (Hall Johnson, composer; A. Grace Lee Mims, soprano)
- “Who’ll Be a Witness for My Lord” (John Rosamond Johnson, composer; Kenneth Spencer, baritone)
- “Steal Away” (Harry T. Burleigh, composer; Martina Arroyo, soprano)
- “Goin’ to Shout All over God’s Heaven” (Clarence Cameron White, composer; Jules Bledsoe, bass)
- “Oh, Didn’t It Rain” (Ruby Elzy, soprano)
- “Every Time I Feel de Spirit” (Lawrence Brown, composer; Evelyn Dove, soprano)
- “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” (Florence Price, composer; Marian Anderson, contralto)
- “Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees” (Adele Addison, soprano; Fisk Jubilee Singers)
There are several appendices originally written for So You Want to Sing Spirituals that are specifically relevant to users of The Spirituals Database, especially:
- Appendix 1 – Recommended Recordings: Selection of recordings recommended for those beginning a collection of concert spirituals for solo voice
- Appendix 2 – Concert Spiritual Singers and Their Recordings: Sample of singers, arranged by voice type, and their recordings of concert spirituals
- Appendix 3 – Spirituals in Musical Anthologies: Availability of spirituals in music scores, print publishers, online databases and publishers, self-publishing composers, online resellers, selected musical scores: compilations containing concert spirituals for solo voice
- Appendix 4 – Song Literature Classification: Concert spirituals classified by category with scriptural reference(s) and entry in musical anthologies
- Appendix 7 – Composers Brief Biographies: Short biographies, with score and recordings information, of composers of concert spirituals for solo voice
There is a Pinterest page of album and label covers at https://www.pinterest.com/singin1/negro-spirituals-album-covers-labels/negro-spirituals/. It’s a bit out-of-date presently, but still of interest.