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The Zion Harmonizers

Zach Smith Photography


The Elder Statesmen of New Orleans Gospel

They are rooted in the quartet singing tradition and a capella harmonies from the turn of the last century. For more than 40 years, The Zion Harmonizers enjoyed an unparalleled platform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, anchoring and curating the Gospel Tent.

In the church of New Orleans jazz, they’ve had the keys to the church of church.

Thank goodness. It’s wonderful.

The Zion Harmonizers began as “New Zion” in 1939. The group’s longtime leader, the “Godfather of the Gospel Tent,” Sherman Washington joined up in 1941 and helped to spread the good news far and wide.

Washington died in 2011. The group is now lead by Brazella Briscoe who has planned a tour to coincide with the release of the Harmonizer’s first new recording in 15 years: Bringing In the Sheaves.

It’s a fitting celebration for a group that’s celebrating a Diamond Jubilee.


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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.