#NP: Rejoice and Shout

What: Rejoice and shout Documentary tracing the history of gospel music
Where: Limited Theatrical Release
When: June 3rd

Rejoice and Shout traces the 200-year history of gospel music through a meticulous combination of archival footage, rare recordings and interviews with the biggest names in the field. There’s also, naturally, lots of great music, and it’s infectious. Veteran music documentarian Don McGlynn treats these songs with the same reverence the singers do, giving them pride of place. After all, this isn’t pop music—although gospel’s certainly influenced plenty of pop acts—it’s the music of a people, a religion, a culture. 

Gospel, which began in the 1800s when plantation owners forced slaves to go to church, continued to develop over the years as it spread throughout the country. “Gospel music is what’s kept us afloat,” says Mavis Staples. These songs are celebratory and necessary, steeped in the African American tradition, and this documentary captures all of that as McGlynn carefully presents the context and stories behind the music and the performers. Aficionados will be familiar with acts like the Golden Gate Quartet, the Utica Quartet, the Dixie Hummingbirds and Sister Rosetta Tharpe—although the early footage here has rarely been seen—but for those that aren’t, this film will be a revelation. The legends are here too: Mahalia Jackson, Smokey Robinson, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Staple Singers. Foot-stomping and hand-clapping likely will start from the opening credits.

—Benjamin Friedland