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Multicultural Traditions

Gospel Brunches
Two Traditions Merge into One

The Queen, Mahalia Jackson
The Queen, Mahalia Jackson
The Queen, Mahalia Jackson
The Queen, Mahalia Jackson

Languorous, relaxing Sunday brunches are tradition in New Orleans. Many of the city’s celebrated restaurants feature long-standing weekly brunches often with jazz combos providing background music. But also on Sunday mornings in New Orleans, African-American churches burst into song with the joyous sounds of gospel, yet another musical genre deeply rooted in the city. Gospel brunches, a relatively new phenomenon, allow a non-religious audience to enjoy a sumptuous meal while appreciating this uplifting, soulful music on the day it was meant to be heard.

Gospel took shape in the early twentieth century from the old spirituals that gave hope and strength to slaves. In New Orleans gospel, any instrumentation aside from human voices was at first frowned upon as sinful in spite of the fact that the music adopted the upbeat rhythms honed by jazz artists. Choirs were originally quite small, but over the years they grew and the more talented vocalists began to step forward to lead emotional call-and-response numbers.

Known as “The Queen of Gospel Music,” Mahalia Jackson was born and raised in New Orleans, and even though she died in 1972, she remains a towering figure in the gospel world. The Zion Harmonizers formed in New Orleans 1939 and still perform today. During Jazz Fest, the Gospel Tent is always overflowing with energy and winning new fans, and New Orleans radio stations continue to give gospel artists a way to connect with their audiences.

Gospel brunches are a perfect way for music fans and curious visitors to enjoy gospel without having to track down neighborhood churches or to feel as if they are interrupting religious services. The House of Blues is a popular location that offers delicious Sunday brunch buffets matched with the soaring harmonies of gospel.

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