Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles (GALA) Collection, 2004.06

June 2004 – May 2005

A UCLA in LA funded Partnership with the Heritage Music Foundation

View a list of materials on LA gospel music and spirituals available in the Archive

Read about GALA in UCLA Magazine here and here

"The circuitous route that took [gospel] music to its present popularity became a major thoroughfare in the first decade of the twentieth century" (Horace Boyer, "African American Gospel Music" in African Americans and the Bible, 2000).

A highly influential — and often overlooked — stopover on gospel’s "circuitous route" was Los Angeles. Between 1906 and 1909 seminal moorings for gospel were planted in Los Angeles at 312 Azusa Street, address of the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission. As Boyer writes, "on April 9, 1906, Jennie Evans … spoke in tongues" at the Mission "and African American sacred music was changed forever." Speaking in tongues, a manifestation of being imbued with the Holy Ghost, led to singing one’s own song and giving voice to one’s own testimony. Boyer notes this, in turn, "served as the inspiration and the catalyst for a catalogue of improvised songs based on the ‘call and response’ practice, with a singing style of robust delivery, filled with hollers and moans."

In the 1930s and 1940s, major churches and choirs were established by pioneer gospel musicians and preachers who moved from the South and Midwest to the West Coast: for example, John L. Branham, James Earle Hines, and Gwendolyn Cooper Lightner at Saint Paul Baptist; Arthur A. Peters and Thurston Frazier at Victory Baptist; Earl A. Pleasant and Frazier at Mount Moriah Baptist; Eugene D. Smallwood at Opportunity Baptist; and William J. Taylor at Grace Memorial Church of God in Christ (COGIC). In addition, Saint Paul’s Echoes of Eden, in 1947, became the first African-American church choir in the United States to make a commercial gospel recording (Capitol Records 40018 and 40076) and Victory Baptist, in the 1950s, was one of the first churches to have its own weekly television program (Channel KTTV, Channel 11).

Due to the legacy established by these pioneers, Los Angeles emerged as a national center for gospel in the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, not only had established gospel artists such as James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, and Clara Ward settled in Los Angeles to take advantage of opportunities in churches and the expanding gospel music industry (radio, recordings, and television), but numerous community choirs, quartets, and small groups had formed. Los Angeles natives who had made contributions to gospel (Albert A. Goodson, Margaret Pleasant Douroux and Andraé Crouch) also began to have an impact on the national front. In fact, Crouch, along with Oakland-based gospel musician Edwin Hawkins, became a major forerunner in the development of contemporary gospel, a style that first started in California in the late 1960s before spreading to other parts of the United States. In short, gospel would not be what it is today without Los Angeles.

Nearly a century after the Azusa Street Revival, Los Angeles continues to play a powerful role in the gospel world. Los Angeles area churches, such as the West Angeles Church of God in Christ (the largest COGIC in the world), the Faithful Central Bible Church (which recently purchased the Forum), and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (the oldest African-American congregation in Los Angeles), host concerts with world-renowned gospel artists every Sunday. At the same time, as gospel becomes more intertwined with the larger music industry, Los Angeles continues to be a center for gospel’s commercialized side. Kirk Franklin’s record company GospoCentric, which is known for integrating rap with gospel, is based in Inglewood. And UCLA adjunct professor James Roberson is CEO and president of the LA-based JDI Records, one of the largest and fastest growing independent gospel record companies in country.

Despite its history and current role, LA is often overlooked as a center for gospel. Even Angelenos do not realize how important their city is when it comes to gospel and, vice versa, how important Gospel is to their city. To raise awareness of LA gospel, document a unique history that slips away with each passing year, and detail the enormous influence gospel has on a pantheon of other musical styles, the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive and the Heritage Music Foundation, or HMF, are partnering together this year. Known as Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles (GALA), this yearlong collaborative project will pair the Archive’s resources and expertise with HMF’s stature and reputation in LA’s gospel music community.

GALA has five main objectives.

  1. Helping HMF plan for Gospel House: One of HMF’s primary goals is to establish a Gospel House, a center for gospel music. The Ethnomusicology Archive staff will help HMF develop a strategic plan for the Gospel House that will clarify collection development, access, preservation, and outreach policies. This plan will then be used by HMF to secure funding for the construction and staffing of the Gospel House.
  2. Expanding LA based gospel and related music collections in the Archive and at HMF: With help from community members and UCLA students, we will make extensive audio and video recordings of gospel and gospel related performances in and around the greater LA area. HMF has already identified a number of events to be documented and we will identify other performances as GALA moves forward. In addition to documenting performances, we plan to conduct oral histories with key people in the gospel community.
  3. Digitizing and increasing access to gospel collections held by HMF and others: The Archive will assist HMF and others with gospel collections to preserve and increase access to already existing recordings that document gospel music in LA. Depending upon the desires of gospel community members, the Archive will accept the original recordings into its collection or accession copies of the original recordings for the Archive.
  4. Hosting an end-of-the-project symposium. We look forward to wrapping up the grant-cycle portion of GALA by hosting a symposium and festival at UCLA or in the community. Such an event will allow GALA participants to evaluate their experiences, celebrate the creation of a new collection, and plan for further collaborations. The event and concert will itself be documented and added to the collection of recordings produced over the year.
  5. Establishing and maintaining a Community Based Organization (CBO) Internet server: We propose the establishment of a CBO server in the Archive. This server will be maintained by the Archive and will allow gospel and other community members to both access and upload digital copies of recordings via the Internet. The Archive will provide open and public access to digital files whenever the artists agree to unfettered use of their works, and will provide password protected and site-specific access to those files that are given restricted circulation status by the artists. We strongly believe that this CBO server will further the mission of HMF and will give artists easy access to their recordings, while at the same time creating links among community based organizations.

HMF is the only LA based organization dedicated to documenting and providing access to gospel. In its over 20 years of service, HMF has garnered respect for its mission and assembled a large collection of gospel sound recordings. In addition, HMF director Dr. Margaret Pleasant Douroux is widely respected throughout the gospel world as a prolific composer and dedicated educator. Her reputation among members of the gospel community should enable us to record the groups and individuals that will make GALA a success.

Other factors that have influenced our decision to partner with HMF include a recommendation from UCLA professor and gospel expert Dr. Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, the research interests of several UCLA ethnomusicology graduate students, and as mentioned above, the significant though often overlooked significance of Los Angeles gospel music. Additionally, by documenting key figures in the LA Gospel community, GALA will highlight alternative role models for African American and other LA area youth.

It is our belief that community members — be they from UCLA, other research institutions, the gospel community, or the general public — will actively use the collection and access the CBO server. And, perhaps most importantly, we believe that the HMF’s capacity to realize its mission, and to document and promote the music of LA’s Gospel community, will be developed as a result of GALA.

Finally, we believe that GALA and AFAMILA (Archiving Filipino-American Music in Los Angeles) — our recently completed UCLA in LA project — will act as models for future collaborative endeavors between the Ethnomusicology Archive and other LA non-profit music organizations. In particular, with the establishment of our CBO server, we envision a network of partnerships, not only between the Ethnomusicology Archive and these organizations, but also between the community organizations themselves. As community organizations begin to document and upload their own performances beyond the length of the grant cycle, and deposit the originals recordings into the Archive, then we have surely succeeded in both bringing UCLA and LA closer together and increasing the Archive’s stature as a repository of locally-produced/world-class research materials.

If you interested in learning more and/or helping us out with GALA, contact the Archive for more information: (310) 825-1695 or archive@arts.ucla.edu