Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Other Recording Projects

Paschall Brothers: Page 1

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Hampton Roads, the growing metropolitan region at the convergence of the James River, Atlantic Ocean, and the Chesapeake Bay, has long been one of our country’s most musically fertile regions, producing world-class performers in a broad range of musical styles from jazz to rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and perhaps most notably, gospel. In its heyday in the early-to-mid twentieth century, the region became known internationally for its classic Tidewater Gospel Sound, sung in four-part harmony, without musical accompaniment. The Paschall Brothers are the current torch bearers of this traditional singing style.

Like so many other forms of Virginia’s rich folkways, this musical tradition emerges from a particular geographical and cultural context, as it is deeply rooted in the social and spiritual life of the Tidewater’s African -American community. Yet you will find that this music also transcends its particular cultural setting, arising from a deeper impulse to create works of beauty from the simplest of means, and to express the joys of life and faith.

The Paschall Brothers are not only keeping the sounds of the past alive today. They are also passing this unique style on to future generations by participating as Master Artists in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program pairs masters of a wide range of traditional art forms with apprentices for a nine-month learning experience.

It takes only a few opening notes for the artistry of the Paschalls to claim the listener’s ear.  The group’s four-part a cappella vocal style is disarmingly fresh in a musical world typically drenched in instrumentation.  Their lyrical message, too, speaks to straight-up religious praise. Every audience that hears them recognizes the Paschalls as distinctive.  Yet one can hardly say the group stands alone, for the Paschalls have over a century of Tidewater Virginia musical traditions behind them.  Decades of skilled, disciplined, and well-dressed singers helped shape an American art form and earned national recognition for the Tidewater quartet style. Nearly all of those older vocalists have passed, but they would be most proud of the Paschalls, dynamic ambassadors of Virginia’s unaccompanied gospel quartet harmony.

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