SGC2USA: The Southern Gospel Choir Research and Tour Project
Legg, A, SGC2USA: The Southern Gospel Choir Research and Tour Project, Multiple publishing outputs; ABC; SBS; Cambridge Music, Dallas Texas; Tuskegee Alabama; Los Angeles California; MONA Tasmania (2014) [Curated Exhibition]
SGC2USA Research Statement
The Southern Gospel Choir (SGC) is based at the University of Tasmania in Australia, and is both an internationally recognized and awarded musical ensemble, but also a massive interdisciplinary research laboratory and cultural research project and hot-house investigating the critical issues associated with cultural exchange and specifically the transculturalisation of iconic African American musical art forms around the globe, particularly into the Australian and Tasmanian contexts.
The SGC2USA Research project and performance tour encapsulates applied research (international quality musical/concert performances, internet and television broadcast and audio-visual recording) and traditional research outputs (3 refereed papers for Cambridge Press, ABC film documentary, book chapter for Rowtlegde, IRGS, REGS and TSBE research grants). The project also has its own private fundraising division which has delivered in excess of a half million dollars over the previous 3 years.
Succinctly, the dual aims of the SGC2USA research project were to perform original music by Legg, and also reworked arrangements of contemporary African American gospel music in three of the leading African American concert/church venues in the USA. As an integral part of this process, Australian gospel singers would work alongside African American singers and musicians, improving and refining the SGC’s African American performance capacity, reputation and reach. Secondly, this process was to come under a traditional research ‘microscope’ and strcuture, examining the performance of African American gospel music by the Australian 'Southern Gospel Choir' (based at the University of Tasmania) and the attitudes and experiences of its members in the period leading up to, during, and after, its first international tour to the USA in November 2014.
Researchers Legg and Philpott recently co-authored an article on aspects of rhythm, lyrics and structures in gospel improvisation and accompaniment that has been accepted for publication in the A-ranked peer-reviewed journal Popular Music (published by Cambridge University Press) and have also been invited by the Editors of this prestigious journal to write for their readership on the unique performance practices and history of the ARIA-nominated Southern Gospel Choir. The research project to be undertaken in conjunction with the USA tour sought to expand upon the work of eminent African American music scholar E. Patrick Johnson (2002; 2003), who examined the performance of African American gospel music by several Australian gospel choirs in the late 1990s by observing choir performances and interviewing members in relation to their history and experiences of African American gospel music.
In particular, the proposed project aims to address the following research questions:
• How is the SGC and its sound unique and distinctive from that of the African American gospel choirs?
• What is the perception of the SGC by significant individuals in the African American churches visited (as referred to above) and the congregation in Tuskegee?
• How does the SGC do what it does and why does its formula seem to work so well?
• Is it the music or the religious aspect, or a combination of both, that attracts the predominantly non-religious choir members and audience members to the SGC?
• How will the USA tour and the experiences of the SGC members interacting and singing with African American gospel singers impact upon the sound of the SGC and the attitudes and beliefs of its members?
As this last question suggests, this research also aims to map the impact of the SGC’s first-hand experiences of African American gospel music and culture upon the sound and performance practices of the choir in the weeks and months after the tour has ended, following the model used by Johnson (2002 and 2003).
African American Gospel Music; Southern Gospel Choir in the USA;