Interview with Tyrome Elliott
Speaking with Tyrome Elliott you cannot help but feel the enthusiasm he has for Gospel singing. He is deeply proud of the family tradition that is now being passed down to the 4th generation with the addition of his son Ryan joining in. Tyrome started out at a very young age with a plastic guitar and he says their singing has impacted not only his family but also the communities where they perform. "It can't come quick enough," said Tyrome in regards to having the opportunity to perform at the 2018 National Folk Festival in Salisbury. "All of the family carivanned to Maine in 2015 to see us sing and they will be coming to Salisbury also. It means everything to me to be able to perform at the Festival."
How did you learn your tradition? I learned about Black Gospel Quartet singing and music as an art form from my grandfather who was a member of a group called the “Royal Lights Quartet” during the 1920’s through the 1940’s. We lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a small place called Cordtown. My grandfather had a strong passion for gospel quartet music and what it represented. My grandparents had 17 children and my grandfather took his four youngest sons and started a group naming it after his father’s group. I was also raised by my grandparents so my grandfather added me to the group at a very young age. We were an ordinary set of siblings with extraordinary voices who would become a very talented group driven by our faith. We changed our name to the “Sensational Royal Lights Quartet” after some years of dedication and success.
How does this tradition play a role in your life? It is extremely important because gospel quartet style of worship has become a family legacy. My grandfather’s hopes and dreams are still alive. The Sensational Royal Lights and what they represent has been a centerpiece of our family for many years. The message of the gospel quartet has been an inspiration and a history lesson to me is so many ways. As I think of the ways that we sing a cappella songs, using clapping of hands and stomping of feet as our only means of music and timing, I am reminded of the songs of hope and how they were related to the stories of slave life on the plantation. In many cases if it were not for the songs of hope, there would not have been any hope.
What significance does this tradition in the life of your community and in Maryland? Quartet singing is a very important part of the spiritual life of the black people in my community. The message of the music usually expresses a personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life and gives a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music. The gospel quartet gives people a means of being able to communicate on common ground and a sense of drawing closer to God through praise, worship and thanksgiving all at once. This lends to bridging cultural differences and bringing people closer together.