Spirit Family Reunion's Unbroken Circle

April 14, 2015 4:16 PM

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Will the circle be unbroken? The question is a fundamental one in the gospel music world. Taken from a hymn that's more than a century old, it helped grant an aura of holiness to country music when that genre's first family, the Carters, posed it in their own version and reminded folk and rock fans of their roots when performed by Bob Dylan and the Band. The image of the unbroken circle creates an aesthetic frame around music as well as a spiritual one. The hymn's lyrics about loved ones linked even unto death resound within a musical structure of call and response that encloses and elevates anyone singing. To make circular music is to embody the virtues of compassion, thankfulness and active giving that all hymns, of whatever religion, express.

Spirit Family Reunion makes secular, circular music. These Brooklyn-based musicians have called what they do "open-door gospel," and indeed, at their shows they fling open the imaginary barrier between players and listeners, entreating the crowd to shout, sing and dance right up to the stage. The ba...

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