Collections: Portia Maultsby - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

African American Gospel Music Performed by Dutch Choirs in the Netherlands (1998-2001)

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The Dutch Mass Choir, directed by Edith Kastelijn, in concert, the Netherlands. Image © Edith Kastelijn.

This collection consists of eleven hours from a total of forty hours of video tapes recorded between 1998 and 2001 during field research trips to the Netherlands (also known as Holland). Genres represented in all forty tapes are blues, jazz, funk, soul, rhythm and blues, hip-hop, and gospel. The eleven videos used for the EVIA Project examine issues of transnationalism as they relate to performances of African American music by European and Surinamese Dutch in two contexts: (1) choirs located in four regions of the Netherlands (Soest-central, Tilburg-south, Rotterdam-west, and Katwijk-West Coast); (2) a small ensemble located in Bijlmer (the outskirts of Amsterdam). Each of the four choirs averages 200 members, primarily of European Dutch ancestry, and is conducted by Edith Kastelijn, also European Dutch. The small ensemble averages between eight and eleven Surinamese members of African heritage and is directed by Maureen Koenders of the same ethnicity.

Edith Kastelijn learned Black gospel music through her membership in an African American church on a U.S. Air Force base in her hometown, Soest. During her fourteen year involvement in the church, she sang in the gospel choir, served as pianist and later director. Kastelijn's choirs evolved from workshops she conducted for Dutch residents of various nationalities and ethnicities interested in learning to sing Black gospel music. In contrast, Maureen Koenders learned to play gospel music by imitating commercial recordings. Several members of her ensemble had backgrounds in popular music, especially soul. To become better singers, they organized or joined the gospel ensemble to learn the tradition that influenced the vocal style of African American superstars, such as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. A comparison of the productions of the groups led by Kastelijn and Koenders reveal these differences in their background and training in gospel music as well as the conditions that gave birth to their groups.

The videos consist of interviews and performances in the context of workshops, rehearsals, concerts, and worship services. The overarching topics are (1) the formation of Dutch gospel choirs; (2) pedagogical methods; (3) production processes; (4) issues of aesthetics and performance style; (4) localized identities and meaning; (5) concepts of authenticity; (5) function; and (6) reception by the broader Dutch society.

Two of the eleven videos are recordings of a gospel music workshop that the collector organized to bring the Surinamese ensemble in direct contact with an African American gospel group and to receive instruction in gospel music from its cultural bearers. Another objective was to create musical interactions and cultural exchanges between the two groups of similar size. The workshop culminated in a combined performance during a Sunday worship service in a Surinamese church.

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Portia Maultsby is professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University, and adjunct professor in the Department of African American and African Diaspora, American and African Studies at Indiana University. She received her PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin. From1999-2000, she was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, CA and in Spring 1998, she was the Belle van Zuylen Professor of African American Music in the Department of Musicology at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Specializing in African American music, Maultsby's current research is on African American popular music and issues of transnationalism. Her research and publications have centered on African American religious and popular music. She has lectured on these topics throughout the United States, in Russia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Malawi, England, Norway, and the Netherlands. Her publications appear in American and European journals, and edited volumes. Maultsby and Mellonee Burnim are co-editors of African American Music: An Introduction (Routledge Press, 2006).

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