Director Don McGlynn opens his spirit-filled documentary on gospel music with the divinely disquieting hypothetical from a pastor, “If we really heard the voice of God, we would be reduced to juice. The vibration of His voice would reduce us to liquid… So He has to use other people to speak his word.”? More words come from writers Anthony Heilbut (“The Gospel Sound”) and Bil Carpenter (“Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia”) and radio host Jacquie Gales Webb. McGlynn also interviews singers Ira Tucker, Ira Jr., Willa Ward, Marie Knight, Smokey Robinson and Mavis Staples. But the bulk of “Rejoice and Shout” is performance footage culled from producer Joe Lauro’s vast archive of film and television shows. McGlynn—whose earlier documentaries treated Charles Mingus, Harold Arlen, Art Pepper, Louis Prima, Howlin’ Wolf, Dexter Gordon, Glenn Miller, Mills Brothers—here foregrounds the music, supplying just hints of all the denominational and commercial issues surrounding gospel in America and its reception abroad. This is not the gospel counterpart to Edward Bland’s “The Cry of Jazz” or Ken Burns’ “Jazz,” but it serves as a worthy sampler and survey. 115m.(Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.