Every year, the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir showcases a stack of new songs, often penned by up-and-coming composers, for convention participants to take back home and teach to their church choirs. Since the early years, the GMWA has also released the Mass Choir performance as a recording to ensure an even wider audience for the new compositions. The recording also provides convention-goers with a nifty souvenir of their GMWA experience.
Another hallmark of the GMWA Mass Choir is its adherence to Rev. Cleveland’s admonition that at the convention, “Everybody is Somebody." This is in keeping with Thomas A. Dorsey’s belief that the gospel choir is a democratic organization: anyone who wants to participate, regardless of musical resume, can participate. Thus, the Mass Choir is not composed primarily of music professionals but average “somebodys” who work hard at a job, raise a family, go to church, join their local GMWA chapter, and rehearse regularly with the local chapter choir. Chapter choir members who attend the annual week-long GMWA convention, often as their summer vacation, work long and hard at the national rehearsal, and voila: the end result is a spit-polished but essentially volunteer driven choral sound with professional gospel artists as soloists, led by the indefatigable Dr. Helen Stephens.
And that is what we have with the latest GMWA Mass Choir project, recorded at the 2005 convention, held in downtown Milwaukee. The recording put its best foot forward from the get-go, as Chicagoan Malcolm Williams leads a spirited choir on his neo-traditional composition “My Everything.” Gospel globetrotter Norris Garner is next, fronting the choir on his island-flavored “God is in This Sanctuary.” Longtime GMWA leader Dr. Charles Fold cools the program down with a solemn rendering of “I’ll Bless His Name.” This track is particularly poignant, as the Milwaukee convention would prove to be Dr. Fold’s last; he passed away in April 2006.
Other notable tracks on the CD include Dr. Calvin B. Rhone’s “I Have a Savior (Jesus is His Name),” which riffs lyrically on “I Have a Friend Above All Others” while musically beating a grinding blues. Angela Bennett’s hard shouting lead on “Oh Jesus” provides the most dramatic, sanctified singing on the hour-plus recording. “Be Thou Exhalted” gives the Mass Choir a chance to really strut its stuff, as it crescendos through a series of key changes, each one threatening to shake the rafters of the convention center.
For those who enjoy a gospel choir engaged in good old fashioned call-and-response singing, GMWA Live in Milwaukee 2005 will satisfy.
Check out the new website, developed by Karl Tsigdinos & John Glassburner, for 20 gospelized versions of secular songs by artists known and unknown (including a quartet called "The Mighty Unknowns").
Awesome photos, label shots, high quality mp3s. Future chapters will continue exploring the musical interrelationship between the sacred and secular, the sounds of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, made particularly explicit during the Soul Era.
The page is part of the Sir Shambling Deep Soul Heaven site that features plenty of aural and visual goodies.
So get your '70s on! Throw on that checkered leisure suit, and get on up and over there!
Check out Black Grooves for some well-written, thoughtful reviews on gospel music releases. Below is a brief description of the site and its origin, in Black Grooves' own words.
"Black Grooves is a music review site hosted by the Archives of African American Music & Culture (AAAMC) at Indiana University. Our goal is to promote black music by providing our readers and subscribers with monthly updates on interesting new releases and quality reissues in all genres─including gospel, blues, jazz, funk, soul, and hip-hop-as well as classical music composed or performed by black artists.
"We feature reviews of some of the best new discs and DVDs, with an occasional book or news item thrown in for good measure. An extra effort is made to track down releases by indie, underground, foreign, and other small labels that don’t get covered in the mainstream media. Our primary focus will be on African American music, but we’ll be happy to cover anything else that’s sent our way, from Afro-pop to reggae.
"Black Grooves is targeted at students, scholars, librarians, collectors, and anyone else wanting the low down on the latest black music releases. With that in mind, we’ll include recordings that are of academic interest─such as historical reissues, boxed sets, label and genre overviews─and any other recordings that get us in the groove."
So what are you waiting for? Sink your brain needle into these black grooves and soak up the knowledge!
The influence of R. Kelly is omnipresent on Dave Hollister’s autobiographical sinner-to-saved sacred hip-hopera. Indeed, Hollister, who has been a mainstay in the RnB world for some time, working with top shelf stars such as Tupac and Mary J. Blige, acknowledges Kelly as a close pal in the liner notes.
Gospel has been slow to adopt the concept album, long a staple of folk and rock music, but Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet – although parodied by the media – may pave the way for more projects (in all genres) that focus on continuity over random tracking. Certainly gospel, with its history of personal testimony, is a perfect platform for the album-long story. Hollister’s The Book of David: Vol 1 The Transition, which integrates RnB coolness and minimalism with gospel’s emotional appeal, makes for a model template.
While “What Do You Do,” “Help Me,” and “Nothing But God” are the recommended radio singles, for my money “So Many Scars” is far more infectious, memorable, and soul-baring. “Divorce” could crossover to RnB without changing one word, note, or beat. The epiphonal “Reach Out to Me” is one of the best gospel songs I’ve heard all year. It has a moving melody and arrangement, inspirational lyrics, and builds in intensity with Hollister hollering sanctified by the end of the track.
The Book of David is different musically and contextually than your typical gospel release, but pushing the musical envelope ensures that gospel remains relevant for everyone. Regardless, the story of daily demon-wrangling is one with which each of us can empathize.
Looking for an alternative from the standard Yule music fare? Try these twelve classic gospel songs on for size. Use your favorite search engine to find reissue CDs, or maybe even the original vinyl, on which these songs can be found.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
1.“Glory, Glory to the New Born King” - Angelic Gospel Singers (Gotham, 1950)
Philadelphia’s Angelic Gospel Singers, featuring Margaret Allison, hit it big in 1949 on their very first 78 rpm single, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus.” Riding high on their newfound popularity, they recorded the Christmas song “Glory, Glory to the New Born King” for Gotham the following year. Horace Clarence Boyer notes that the song became as popular in the African American community as “White Christmas” did in the white community. Even today, a gospel Christmas compilation without someone singing “Glory, Glory to the New Born King” is simply incomplete.
2. “O Holy Night” - Marion Williams (Savoy, 1959)
The legendary gospel soprano Marion Williams moved the Ward Singers up a little higher before stepping out on her own in 1958 to fashion the Stars of Faith from fellow members of the Wards aggregation. One year later, Marion and the Stars of Faith waxed a Christmas album for Savoy Records. On the album, Marion performs “O Holy Night” as a solo. While the entire song is a masterpiece, its finest moment comes at the composition’s emotional apex, when Marion launches one of her signature high-whoos, like a sonic rocket, heavenward.
3. “Christmas Morn” - Charles Watkins (Savoy, 1951)
Before Charles Watkins became a Bishop, he was a gospel crooner, one of the smoothest male vocalists to ever grace the genre. His 1963 “Heartaches” was a gospel hit that would be covered by many artists, but 12 years prior, he recorded “Christmas Morn” for Savoy. “Christmas Morn” remains an obscure title, but that is unfortunate: the melody is every bit as unforgettable as Nat Cole’s take on Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.” Forget global warming: the polar ice cap began to melt when Watkins falsettoed “Merry Christmas to you” in the song’s final bars.
4. “Pretty Little Baby” - James Cleveland and the Cleveland Singers (Savoy, 1968)
A Christmas spiritual, sung slowly and with much gravity and passion by “King” James Cleveland, whose coarse, pious voice always seemed one beat away from a full-out sob. The Cleveland Singers increase and decrease in intensity in all the right places, making this one of Cleveland’s most perfect recordings. Given Cleveland’s prolific recording career spanning four decades, that says a lot.
5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Pilgrim Travelers (Specialty, 1952)
The Pilgrim Travelers were one of the finest a cappella gospel quartets of the Golden Era. They lent their voices to this popular Christmas song, which was as relevant during the Korean War as it was a decade earlier when sung about World War II soldiers missing loved ones during the holidays. The Travelers’ version, however, doesn’t seem nearly as optimistic about soldiers returning as did Bing Crosby’s 1943 classic, but instead seems to stoop under the weight and weariness of continued conflict. The steel guitar flourishes at the end, added presumably to brighten the arrangement, only thicken the fog of loneliness and despair.
6. “When Was Jesus Born” – Patterson Singers (United Artists, 1968)
The Patterson Singers were no strangers to Christmas songs, having performed a few for a special Christmas album produced in 1963 by Vee Jay Records. This recording, however, finds them across the ocean, in concert in Frankfort, West Germany, shouting this timeless spiritual at elite runner pace. The Pattersons’ rhythmic stutter during the litany of months at the composition’s center drives the audience into an understandable frenzy.
7. “White Christmas” – Vocalaires of Newport News, VA (Pinewood, early 1970s)
The Vocalaires male quartet, like the Ravens and Drifters before them, turn Bing Crosby’s zillion seller into a rousing, fun doo-wop. While the Ravens’ and Drifters’ recordings remain fairly faithful to the original, the Vocalaires sing the lyrics to a standard 50s doo-wop song structure, resplendent with playful booming bass lines and high harmonies. A tough-to-find recording, but well worth the search.
8a. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” – Wings over Jordan Choir (RCA Victor, 1948) & 8b. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” – Rev. Cleophus Robinson (Peacock, 1967)
Men and women of all races and creeds who grew up in the 1940s recall fondly the Wings over Jordan Sunday radio program, where they heard some of the most moving spiritual singing on the planet. Who better, then, to render Robert MacGimsey’s neo-spiritual than Rev. Glenn Settles’ Wings over Jordan? The Cleveland-based chorus sings the composition like a teary lullaby, with lovingly hushed harmonies.
Rev. Cleophus Robinson’s take on the composition two decades later, however, eschews the supplicant quietude and aims straight for the theme’s parallel to the plight of African Americans in the 1960s. Robinson’s gravitas on the line, “The world treat you mean, Lord/Treat me that way, too,” will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
9. “Jesus Christ, the Baby” – Six Trumpets feat. Maggie Ingram (Nashboro, 1961)
This Christmas gospel favorite introduced the sweet, girl-group soprano of Maggie Ingram. The Six Trumpets male quartet supporting Ingram chant “baby” (as in Jesus) in the background, though it sounds for all the world as if they are chanting “Maggie.” Ingram went on to form a successful family group called the Ingramettes, but she never again replicated the charmingly graceful performance of her debut.
10. “Follow the Star” – Edwin Hawkins, feat. Richard Smallwood (Birthright, 1985)
Richard Smallwood wrote “Follow the Star” and accompanied the Hawkins Family on their performance of it for their much sought-after 1985 Christmas album. “Follow the Star” features a chorus of beautiful, tight harmonies, crisp and invigorating as a starry winter night. A master of the expansive, emotional finish, Smallwood writes a real heart-wrenching coda for “Follow the Star.” It alone is guaranteed to elicit sighs of wonder and soul satisfaction.
11. “Joy to the World” – Stars of Black Nativity (Vee Jay, 1962)
Alex Bradford and the Bradford Singers, Marion Williams and the Stars of Faith, and Princess Stewart served as the original cast for Langston Hughes’ captivating interpretation of the Nativity. Like the Christmas Star, Black Nativity would be witnessed and marveled at the world over. “Joy to the World” was performed for the stage production and original soundtrack by Professor Bradford and his Singers. It was a stroke of genius: the group’s over-the-top effervescence was perfect for this musical explosion of exaltation.
12. “Silent Night” – Mahalia Jackson (Apollo, 1950)
Franz Gruber and Josef Mohr wrote this Christmas chestnut in 1818, but when Mahalia Jackson wrapped her gospel tonsils around it 132 years later, you’d swear the two Austrians wrote the song expressly for her. Millions upon millions have crooned this carol, but few with the straightforward, heartwarming religious intensity of ‘Halie.
Ahmet Ertegun, the son of a Turkish diplomat who, with his brother Nesuhi and friend Herb Abramson, turned a $10,000 loan from his dentist into Atlantic Records, one of the world's most successful record and entertainment companies, died Thursday, December 14.
Ertegun, 83, was backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in October when he slipped and suffered a fall that put him into a coma. He never recovered.
While gospel was only a small segment of the company's overall record catalog, gospel artists who were on Atlantic included early stars the Mary Johnson Davis Gospel Singers, featuring future Ward Singers Frances Steadman and Thelma Jackson, and Jeff Banks; songwriter/gospel impresario Otis Jackson; New Orleans' Jackson Gospel Singers; the Rosettes (who sang with Rosetta Tharpe); Little Richard (the gospel singer); and Rev. H.B. Crum and the Mighty Golden Keys.
In the 1960s, Atlantic would produce albums by a variety of artists, including Chicago's Helen Robinson Youth Chorus, organist Alfred Bolden, the Richburg Singers, Marion Williams, the Harmonizing Four, and the Institutional Church of God in Christ Radio Choir.
Of course, Atlantic will always be known as the label that made Rev. C.L. Franklin's daughter Aretha an international star.
TBGB learned from Veda Brown of Black Gospel Promo that Mother Mattie Bowman, mother of Vickie Winans, went home to be with the Lord on December 12. Keep the family in your prayers this Holiday Season.
Reported today by Sheilah Belle & The Belle Report:
New York, NY -- In one of the biggest moves ever made by any Gospel Music Executive, Max Siegel leaving Verity Records has got to be one of the biggest!
The announcement came on Friday, when Max Siegel, President of Zomba Gospel and Senior Vice President of the Zomba Label Group informed his staff, and some of the label roster members like Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, John P. Kee and others that he would be leaving the company and heading to Charlotte, NC to head up Dale Earnhardt Enterprises, one of the largest NASCAR operations in the world.
Siegel has over fifteen years of brokering deals and project management and is known for his shrewd and savvy business expertise, an accomplished entertainment executive, attorney, author, conference organizer and television & film producer. Siegel is also one of the most sought after persons in the entertainment industry and has appeared on Oprah, twice in one year; Tavis Smiley’s NPR and has been featured in national major media outlets such as The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business, Black Enterprise, Billboard Magazine and The Belle Report.
He is a cum laude graduate from the University of Notre Dame School of Law. While enrolled as a student, he made history at Notre Dame as the first African American to graduate with honors from the School of Law. During the past 12 years, the Indianapolis native has also presided over the legal affairs for several Fortune 500 corporations, as well as professional sports, entertainment individuals and organizations. Siegel’s legal expertise and business acumen has afforded him the reputation as a “win-win attorney” among his peers, and has played a major role in the shaping of sports athletes as Tony Gwynn and Reggie White.
With his new position, under the Dale Earnhardt Enterprises umbrella, Siegel will have another chance in helping to shape another world…this one involving NASCAR, with responsibilities including overseeing several race car teams, car dealerships, an airline, thoroughbred race horses, 500 employees and so much more.
Siegel says, “I was presented an awesome opportunity, that just came out of no where and I just couldn’t pass it up."
His departure, however will not be abrupt. Siegel says, “I will still be hands on for a while helping with the transition of the company.” He also adds the Stellar Awards will be his last industry public appearance for a while.
However, as he makes his departure, he will leave behind a powerhouse that he help build. Its roster consists of some of the top gospel artists in the world including Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Deitrick Hammond, Donnie McClurkin, Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, Andrae Crouch, Donald Lawrence, Richard Smallwood, Tonex, Marvin Sapp, Joann Rosario, 7 Sons of Soul, John P. Kee and several others. Verity Records also has 7 of the top ten charted records and it has earned 42% of all gospel sales.
As for the transition in leadership at Verity, not much difficulty there either. The former Senior Vice President/General Manager of Verity Records, Jazzy Jordan, will be packing up his bags from his recently formed company, Jordan Entertainment Group, and returning to the label he once called home…Zomba Gospel Label Group. He will be heading up both Verity and GospoCentric Records and all of Zomba’s Gospel efforts…as early as today! Continuing to run the day to day operations at Jordan Entertainment Group will be Jesse Thompson.
Jordan says he will be retaining the same title he left with while working at Verity and will be returning to the company under his own terms. Jordan says, at this juncture there will not be a President of Verity Records.
The initial call came from Siegel to Jordan about two weeks ago. It was over the weekend, when the deal was finally finalized. Jordan says, “At this point I don’t see any other staff changes, but there could be some adjustments once everything is figured out.”
Overall, Jordan is excited about the opportunity and says, “Hopefully my position will offer artists from Jordon Entertainment a little more clout."
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” Rev. Timothy Flemming, Sr. From the CD Go Tell it on the Mountain God's Strength Records 2006 1-866-683-5388
In the 1960s, Timothy Flemming was known throughout his home state of Georgia as “The Boy Preacher.”
Today he is Rev. Timothy Flemming, the venerable Pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Atlanta, a post he has held for 29 years. Although lauded for his oratory skills, which are laced with a healthy dose of mother wit, Rev. Flemming also sings. He sings very well, too, as demonstrated most recently on his Christmas release, Go Tell It on the Mountain.
The title track is appropriately old-school. Flemming’s interpretation owes a great deal to Mahalia Jackson’s own – he punctuates syllables almost exactly where she does – and his open throat singing and shouting remind the listener of another fan of the Christmas hymnbook, Rev. Cleophus Robinson.
“Come Ye Disconsolate” Dixie Hummingbirds Peacock 3012 1964 [also on Peacock single 3402 and Peacock LP PLP 115 “Prayer for Peace,” Song Bird SBLP240, and ABC D-4013]
Think about the music of the Dixie Hummingbirds and what comes to mind is energetic, post-jubilee singing with a strong bass line and Howard Carroll’s guitar as lead vehicle of a quartet pulsing at the speed of Kenyan runners. The Birds were equally capable, however, of slowing it down to perform breathtaking gospel ballads with thick, lush harmonies, such as their 1964 recording of the 19th century hymn, “Come Ye Disconsolate.”
In my experience, gospel arrangements of “Come Ye Disconsolate” often lack musical imagination, varying little from what’s printed on the page in the hymnal. Leave it to the Dixie Hummingbirds to change that by interpreting the hymn with a harmony line rich as fudge yet beautiful and delicate as crystal. Over a medium-slow waltz tempo maintained by drums, guitar and piano, Ira Tucker sings gently in the high register as the rest of the Birds harmonize quietly behind him, akin to a musical afterthought.
“Come Ye Disconsolate” was coupled on Peacock single #3012 with the equally dignified “Our Prayer for Peace,” a “why can’t we all get along?” plea. Released shortly after the JFK assassination, the single captured the frustration and sadness that gripped the United States as it struggled to come to sobering terms with a world that changed in the flash of a rifle shot.
U2’s Bono and a host of famous musicians and actors, along with prominent private foundations headed by Bill and Melinda Gates and former President Bill Clinton, are working passionately to eradicate HIV and AIDS, particularly in Africa. This is a laudable and historic accomplishment, one that deserves our deepest gratitude and selfless support.
At the same time, many African Americans suffer from HIV/AIDS, and in numbers disproportionate to the rest of the country. We also need to care for our brothers and sisters right here in the United States.
Gospel Music Cares aims to do just that.
Founded this year by Torrance F. Hill (Todd Hill and Chosen), and Kenneth T. Jones, Gospel Music Cares seeks to garner financial and programmatic support for African Americans infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Specifically, the organization will harness the healing and transformative power of gospel music to raise money and awareness to help eradicate the disease, especially among those affiliated with and encouraged by gospel music.
“Having been in the gospel music industry for many years, I have witnessed the challenges of choir members and dear friends who have become infected,” said Hill, who serves as co-chair of the Atlanta-based nonprofit’s board of directors. “I also know the countless stories of those who have been encouraged by gospel music to deal with HIV infection, stigma, and lost. Clearly, the need is now to raise the awareness of HIV/AIDS.”
Gospel Music Cares held its inaugural event on December 1 at Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The World AIDS Day Commemorative Concert (Shining Light on those Lost, Infected and Affected) featured the sixty-plus voices of the Commemorative Choir, as well as recording artists and performers such as Alton Parks and Rapture, B. Chase Williams and ShaBach, Edward Walker and Nu Image, and Todd Hill and Choice. Proceeds from this event will support a local organization serving those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Hill and Jones are now calling upon members of the gospel music industry nationwide to join with them in supporting Gospel Music Cares through concerts and other activities that use their special gifts of music ministry. In turn, Gospel Music Cares will direct financial resources gathered through these efforts to church ministries and other organizations that provide treatment or services for African Americans dealing with HIV/AIDS. The organization also hopes to increase public awareness by disseminating educational materials and encouraging public support for programs that benefit those with HIV/AIDS.
Torrance Hill, Kenneth Jones, and the friends of Gospel Music Cares are, as the song goes, letting their light shine.
Nominations were announced today for the 49th annual Grammy Awards. Below are some of the gospel artists, songs, and recordings up for nomination. The Recording Academy will award the Grammys on Sunday, February 11, 2007. Congratulations to everyone who was nominated!
Best Gospel Performance (For solo, duo, group as collaborative performances. Singles or tracks with vocal containing Gospel lyrics. All genres of Gospel music are eligible.)
"Not Forgotten" - Israel & New Breed Track from: Alive In South Africa [Integrity Gospel]
"The Blessing Of Abraham" - Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers Track from: Finale Act One [EMI Gospel]
"Made To Worship" - Chris Tomlin Track from: See The Morning [Sparrow Records/SixStepsRecords]
"Victory" - Tye Tribbett & G.A. Track from: Victory Live! [Columbia, Sony Urban]
Best Gospel Song (A Songwriter(s) Award. Artist names appear in parenthesis. Singles or Tracks only.)
"The Blessing Of Abraham" - Donald Lawrence, songwriter (Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers) Track from: Finale Act One [EMI Gospel; Publishers: QW Songs, Zomba Publishing.]
"Imagine Me" - Kirk Franklin, songwriter (Kirk Franklin) [Fo Yo Soul/Verity/Zomba; Publishers: Zomba Songs, Kerrion Publishing, Lilly Mack Music.]
"Mountain Of God" - Brown Bannister & Mac Powell, songwriters (Third Day)Track from: Wherever You Are [Essential Records; Publishers: Vandura 2500 Songs, New Spring (Zomba), Banistuci Music.]
"Not Forgotten" - Israel Houghton & Aaron Lindsey, songwriters (Israel & New Breed) Track from: Alive In South Africa [Integrity Gospel; Publishers: Sound of the New Breed, Integrity's Praise! Music, Aaron Lindsey Publishing.]
Best Traditional Gospel Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of VOCAL tracks.)
An Invitation To Worship - Byron Cage [Zomba/Gospocentric]
Paved The Way - The Caravans [Malaco Records] Still Keeping It Real - The Dixie Hummingbirds [MCG Records] Alive In South Africa - Israel & New Breed [Integrity Gospel] Finalé Act One - Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers [EMI Gospel]
Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of VOCAL tracks.)
Set Me Free - Myron Butler & Levi [EMI Gospel]
Hero - Kirk Franklin [Fo Yo Soul/Zomba] A Timeless Christmas - Israel And New Breed [Integrity Gospel] This Is Me - Kierra "Kiki" Sheard [EMI Gospel] Victory Live! - Tye Tribbett & G.A. [Columbia, Sony Urban]