Through live performances, a radio documentary series, and a media-rich website, WXPN explores the roots of gospel and its influence on secular popular music. Gospel’s stylistic elements—including soaring vocals, rich harmonies, and syncopated rhythms—have long been fused into secular popular musical genres, such as rock and roll, R&B, soul, and hip-hop. The project’s year-long series of performances honored gospel’s origins in African American spirituals, illustrate gospel’s impact on contemporary music, and demonstrated how the genre lives in Philadelphia’s music scene and churches today. Featured artists included the iconic gospel quartet Dixie Hummingbirds, the contemporary R&B and soul-influenced McCrary Sisters, the 18-voice a cappella ensemble the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the St. Thomas Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. A forthcoming radio documentary for regional and national broadcast, narrated by singer CeCe Winans and produced by award-winning radio producer Alex Lewis, will include performance recordings, interviews with artists, and conversations with music historians, and a project website offers performance videos, interviews, and written recollections.
Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.