The Music History of CSBC
The Court Street Baptist Church dates its beginning to 1815 with the first Baptist Church (White). The white and colored members worshipped together until 1843 at which time the colored portion of the congregation was set apart as a separate church, designated as “The African Baptist Church.”
Music was an integral part of the worship service for the newly formed black congregation. While worshipping with the “Mother” church, First Baptist, Hymns were sung from a Hymnal entitled, “ A Selection of Hymns From the Best Authors” by John Rippons, dated 1787.The first Historical Committee ,organized in 1900 noted that the Senior choir along with the Sunday school were the first auxiliaries to be organized. It is not known exactly who the first director of the Senior Choir was. It is recorded, however, that Mr. Ulysses Grant Patterson, a teacher at The Virginia Seminary who taught voice and conducted the brass band, was the director of the Senior Choir from 1897 until his death in April 1916. He was also a baritone singer and cornet player. He was considered to be the “Finest Negro” Cornetist in the state of Virginia. Having such a talented and renowned musician, Court Street made an “All Hail King Jesus “decision to purchase and install a two-manual pipe organ in the balcony of the church in 1898. This action took place under the leadership of Reverend B.F. Hoffman.
Following Mr. Patterson’s death in 1919, Professor Benjamin H. Stewart, a professional musician, who taught at the Virginia Seminary & College served as the director and organist for the Senior Choir. Professor Stewart was multi-talented. He was well-versed in music art forms and taught the Senior Choir how to read music and demonstrate this skill in singing! Thus the Senior choir was able to expand its repertoire of music including hymns, spirituals, and anthems such as Isaac Watt’s “Joy to The World” and George Friedrich Handel’s” The Hallelujah Chorus.”
During the late 1950’s the pipe organ was in need of repair. Because of the tremendous expense involved, the church decided that it would be more cost effective to purchase a new organ at a cost of approximately $16,000. The Senior Choir played a major role in fund-raising, in cooperation with other ministries, toward this effort. The new organ was placed on the lower level of the sanctuary and the choir stand was moved behind the pulpit. Beginning in 1968 to the present time, Professor A. Roger Hoard, has continued the practice of teaching choir members to read music and to sing hymns and anthems.
Other trained musicians who served as directors and accompanists for the Senior Choir were the following: Ms. Billy Smith, Mrs. Nellie Hilton Johns, Rev. Clarence Sykes, Mrs. Alisha Anderson, and Mrs. Vicki Britt Hubbard. The Senior Choir historically has provided the music on Communion Sunday. The Senior Choir is also known for its impressive cantatas during the Christmas and Easter seasons.
Under the administration of Rev. Edgar Thornton who pastored from 1943-1953, the Gospel Choir and the Male Chorus were organized. Both choirs sang primarily gospel music and spirituals.
The Jubilee Choir was organized under the administration of Rev. Donald W. Johnson. Deacon Stroud was the director and his daughter, Casandra Stroud was pianist. Guitar and drums were additional instruments used to enhance the piano. Rev. Johnson was very interested in encouraging young people, and was keenly aware of the need to keep children and youth involved in the church. During his administration, the Youth choir and the Children’s choir were filled with children donned in choir robes. They often sang “Shake the Devil off”, “This Little Light of Mine”, and “Yes Jesus Loves Me”. The children’s choir was comparable to the Sunshine Band organized earlier in the 1940’s.
The Mass Choir was organized in the 1990s under the pastorate of Rev. James Coleman. The music genre consisted primarily of contemporary gospel and the use of drums, guitars, the saxophone and the piano. The Mass choir was very similar to the Jubilee Choir in style of music. Both choirs were highly acclaimed by the congregation and their membership flourished.