Filmmaker Don McGlynn has produced some of the most captivating documentaries about music and musicians of the last 30 years. His films on big band leaders Art Pepper and Glenn Miller, and jazz musicians Dexter Gordon and Charles Mingus, are some of the best visual documents ever produced on their respective subjects. The same can be said of Rejoice and Shout, McGlynn's comprehensive retrospective on the history of gospel music. If you're thinking ‘I don't like gospel music,' you're probably wrong. As noted by commentator Smokey Robinson, most American music, from Broadway show tunes to R&B and Soul, is rooted in the "plantation" music of slavery, which, when mingled with Christian spiritual hymns, became the first form of gospel music. The filmmakers use film, stills and video footage from as far back as the late 1800s, some of which has never been seen or heard before. Some of the performances in the film (from Mahalia Jackson to The Clara Ward Singers) are deeply affecting and the historical context the film provides is as impressive as the music itself. But without some targeted marketing efforts (think churches and musical communities) the film's box office will be slight. Potential should be corralled for this great film, the reach of which could be quite broad given strong support.
Rejoice and Shout is full of rarely seen performances by some of the greatest artists in the genres that collectively make-up what we call gospel. The range of genres reaches from early hymns to four-part harmony, blues and swing, soul and many contemporary modes of hip-hop. Bracketed by thoughtful and reflective remembrances from the likes of Smokey Robinson, Ira Tucker and Mavis Staples, we see archival footage of performances from The Dinwidded Colored Quartet, the band responsible for the first recording of a black spiritual in 1902. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black, female, lead singer from the '30s who played a wicked electric guitar also makes an appearance via archival material. The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Utica Quartet and The Edwin Hawkins Singers are part of a short list of performances in a film that covers over 200 years of music and all of the major innovators of each era.
Rejoice and Shout is a comprehensive education that will enhance your enjoyment of all music, from pop to punk, which generally starts with a shout and ends with a lot of rejoicing.
Director: Don McGlynn
Producers: Joe Lauro
Rating: PG for some mild thematic material and incidental smoking.
Running Time: 115 min.
Release date: June 3 NY, June 10 ltd.