The Paschall Brothers, masters of the classic Tidewater gospel sound, performed at the Library of Congress in June as part of the American Folklife Center's annual concert series, "Homegrown 2004: The Music of America."
Tidewater gospel music, sung in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment, originated in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. The Rev. Frank Paschall Sr. originally formed the ensemble in 1981 with his five sons: Frank Jr., Tarrence, Wendell, Dwight and William. After Frank Paschall Sr. died in 1999, the lead vocal work shifted primarily to Tarrence, but, as in many quartets, the vocal parts are traded among the members for different songs. The Paschall Brothers stand firmly in the great tradition of unaccompanied religious singing in Tidewater Virginia. The black gospel quartet tradition can be traced back to plantation life in the American South. Though scarcely a handful of African American a cappella quartets sing in Virginia today, black four-part harmony groups were singing in Virginia at least as early as the mid-1800s, and the Tidewater region alone produced more than 200 such groups in the century following the Civil War.
The Homegrown concert series presents the very best of traditional music and dance from a variety of folk cultures thriving in the United States. The series is co-sponsored by the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. Homegrown concerts are held once a month from April through December.