The Obligatory Gospel Number

Why should fundamentalists have all the fun?

Andy Kirshner is a professor, composer, performer, and filmmaker who makes work about thorny social, political, and existential questions.

One of the fun things about writing a musical, as opposed to say, an experimental multimedia work, is that there is a long tradition of conventions and precedents to draw on.  I guess it's more like being a painter, or a sculptor: there are a million opportunities for wry commentary on previous works, or for tweaking an established tradition (think of all the revisionist takes on the Last Supper for example.)  Or as my colleagues in the Humanities might say, "you get to go inter-textual."

The American musical comedy has been around for about a hundred years now, and because of its ubiquity in high school auditoriums all across America, its a genre that is familiar to just about every one.  What may be less obvious to the casual observer, however, is that there are certain kinds of songs that come up again and again in the "canon."  The "charm song," the "I want" song, the "eleven o'clock" number, and the one that concerns me most here, the "fake gospel number."

country church

Think "Blow Gabriel Blow," in Cole Porter's Anything Goes, or "Sit Down, Your Rockin' the Boat," in Loesser's Guys and Dolls, or even "Trouble," in Meredith Wilson's The Music Man.

And what's interesting to me about these numbers is that because they are so charming and full of energy, they can really be quite subversive, even within a socially conservative a form like musical comedy.  After all, they are satirizing religion.

So as I set out to write my musical about the gay daughter of a fundamentalist who discovers a dark national security secret (more on that later), I knew that there was a great opportunity for a gospel number, and for a little sugar-coated satire of my own.  Conveniently, a lot of your more rabid fundamentalists tend also to be singers (Jimmy Swaggert, John Hagee), so I had plenty of YouTube church services to draw on.

Here's what I came up with.  I hope you enjoy it.

A Little Revival Music.


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