What the heck, let’s keep this “Home” theme going a bit; there is certainly no lack of songs about “making it home” in the realm of gospel music. In fact, it is one of the principle themes of gospel music…well, in religious music as a whole.
I was just reminded of the lyrics of a song by Myrna Summer titled “An Uncloudy Day“, that I thought would be a great example of a wonderful old black gospel song about “Home”. Unfortunately that song was written in 1886 by Rev Josiah Kelly “J.K.” Alwood, a white minister who served as presiding elder of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ Church in Ohio for 23 years. Nonetheless, the lyrics are still relevant here.
Oh, they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
Oh, they tell me of a home far away;
Oh, they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
Oh, they tell me of an unclouded day.
Another song from the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir recorded in Salt Lake City in 1992.
All Is WellGospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) Mass Choir5:56
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The song was written by Elder Roger Hairston, pastor of the Temple of Faith C.L.G. (Church of the Loving God) in Columbus OH. He also directed the choir on this recording. Elder Hairston is one of many, many, Hairstons who have been pastors and/or involved with gospel music. One of the better know Hairstons was Jester Hairston, an American composer, songwriter, arranger, choral conductor, and actor. He was regarded as a leading expert on Negro spirituals and choral music. (He arranged a version of “Elijah Rock” that Joyful Voices perfromed. The “other” version of “Elijah Rock” was arranged by Mose Hogan). His notable compositions include “Amen,” a gospel-tinged theme from the film “Lilies of the Field” and a 1963 hit for The Impressions, and the Christmas song “Mary’s Boy Child”. He also made many appearances on radio (Amos and Andy) and television (Amen, Family Matters, etc.)
The story of the Hairston dynasty is remarkable and is documented in the book “The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White”.
I thought that by now I would have posted all my “favorite” songs, but it seems that’s not the case because I just stumbled across this song. If there is one criticism I’d make about the song it is that, even at 5 minutes long, I’m always left wanting more. I can’t get enough of it and I wonder what went on after the fade out at the end.
Oh, and the drum work! Starting at 2:43 as the altos pick up their part of the vamp, the drummer is marvelous with perfectly timed cymbal crashes, rim shots and the like right through to the end.
I made a post a little over a year ago with a couple choirs singing a song based on 27th Psalm. This is a different song with the same title, “Psalm 27”, from the youth choir at James Cleveland’s Gospel Music Workshop of America held in 1989. The choir is lead and directed by two of the best in gospel, Daryl Coley and Bruce Parham.
As I have mentioned before, I have a special place in my heart for youth choirs, and this song does not disappoint.
A gospel classic featuring the late, great, Daryl Coley with the Gospel Music Workshop of America choir. This song was recorded at the 1982 GMWA Convention in Houston, TX. James Early introduced this song to JVOI several years ago.
One of the wonderful songs to come out of one of the Gospel Music Workshop of America’s annual conventions. This cut was recorded at the 1986 convention in St. Louis MO. The song was written and performed by Larry Dennis. The intro grabs you and then the choir comes in full bore.
Saved And Sent to SingGMWA Mass Choir4:35
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Here is Larry Dennis’ bio he wrote for his posting on soundclick.com. I love these stories…like so make people of color, turning continual adversity into strength through faith and trust in God. I also love the extensive list of people who influenced his music…like..EVERYONE! (I’ve bolded the names of those I’ve posted on this blog in the past.)
The oldest of five siblings, Larry Dennis was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He started his passion for music at the young age of five and joined the junior choir at the Green Grove Baptist Church. After his mother past away when he was eleven years of age, he was determined to make a name for himself and help provide for his siblings. At the age of thirteen he began playing the piano by ear and continued learning by taking lessons through a piano teacher at his church. As a member of the East High School Gospel choir, he had the opportunity to perform at several churches in the Cleveland area and was chosen to sing in the City Wide solo contest where he received top awards. Larry was also the musician/director for the Young Adult Choir at New Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Upon graduating from high school Larry was drafted into the U.S. Army and was stationed at Ft Lewis, Washington Army base. One Sunday Larry was singing off base at a church where an Army Chaplain heard him and asked him to help form a Gospel Choir for the Military Chapel Service. The Choir became popularly known as The Martin Luther King Singers and won several awards for best military Gospel Choir. He was later re-assigned to Germany where he auditioned and was accepted into the 7th Army Soldiers Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany. There he traveled throughout Europe and was often a featured soloist and became popular in the German Community as the lead singer of the song “Amen”. When not on the road with the Army Chorus Larry also worked with the Army Chaplain as musician/choir director throughout his tour of duty in Germany and the gospel choir traveled to various cities to perform and won several awards. Upon his return to the US Larry joined the Gospel Music Workshop of America founded by the late Reverend James Cleveland where two of his original songs were selected and performed and recorded by the Workshop Mass Choir and two other songs were selected and performed by that Workshop’s Youth Choir.
Larry later joined the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses founded by the late Thomas A Dorsey where two of his songs (one of them being “Saved and Sent To Sing”…RLS) were selected and performed by the Mass Choir. Larry’s original songs are a combination of mainly gospel contemporary and some traditional style and occasional you may hear some R&B flavor. Larry loves punchy rhythmic upbeat songs and slow soothing ballads with a powerful message of love, joy and encouragement as you will hear as you listen to some of his songs. Larry loves to sing songs that give God praise for all of the many blessings. One of his favorite hymns is “Great is thy Faithfulness”, for God has truly been faithful! Larry has always had a humble spirit when it comes to his musical gifts, and realizes that it is God that deserves the Glory!
Larry presently lives in the Washington, DC area and has had the opportunity to perform with established artist such as the late Reverend James Cleveland, Vicky Winans, Keith Pringle, The Winans, Ben Vereen, Edwin Hawkins, Dorothy Norwood, Richard Smallwood, Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins, Donald Lawrence, Kirk Franklin, and Kirt Carr.
Who has influenced your music?
Freddie Fuller, (Stubby) Howard Smith, Larry Adams, Alvin Killibrew, Minister Ricky Fowler, Alvin Nesbitt, Rev. Conrad Brooks, Roland Roach, Elder Jeremiah Murphy, Jeffrey A. LaValley, Andrew Rowe, Pastor Mary Tilghman, Bernard Maveritte, Harrold Sutton, Wesley Watkins, Lenny Williams (From Tower of Power?? RLS), John & Esther Watson, Forrest McCain, Tangee Rowe, Pastor Kenny Spears, Ricky Payton, Judd Williams, William Hubbard, Harvey Lewis Jr., Danny McCrimmon, Tim Linzy, Milt Matthews, Steve Lawrence (like Steve and Edie??? RLS), Dottie Jones, Debbie Steele, Angie Steele, Marvin McCoy, Veda McCoy, Terrance Richburg, Terron Whitehead, Billy Preston (“Will It Go ‘Round In Circles” RLS), Richard Smallwood, Henry McKenzie Davis, Shirley K. Berkley, Pastor Roland Kenner Jr, Steven Ford, Butch McGhee, Professor Theodore King, Milton Bigham, Andrae Crouch, Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Rev. Charles Nicks, Rev. Andrae Woods, Evangelist Rosie Wallace Brown, Rev. Lawrence Roberts, Rev. Robert Hubbard (Cleveland Ohio) Wintley Phipps, Thomas Dorsey, Pastor Marvin Winans, Ernie Davis Jr. Mryna Sumners, Shirley Ceasar, Vanessa Williams, and Minister Thomas Whitfield.
All of these wonderful people impacted my life personally or by sharing their awesome gift of music; thank you !!
Sorry, it was a busy weekend with folks crashing in the room where my computer is, so early morning blog posts weren’t happening. I’m back on track now.
Here’s a nice song from the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir recorded at one of their annual conventions. This song has a nice southern feel to it at the start, but it gets pretty wild as the song goes on and they get into a couple of different vamps (2:50 and 3:42). This should get your motor running this morning.
I’ve tried to “hold out” 😉 on posting original versions of songs the Joyful Voices has sung in the past thinking that I should expose people to songs they may not have heard before, but the choir’s 17 year repertoire is so large that I’ve overlooked posting some great songs. So I’m going to start posting more songs that JVOI has sung over the years.
Here is the original 1979 version of “My Change Will Come” performed by James Cleveland and The Triboro Mass Choir under the direction of Rev. Albert Jamison from their 1979 Grammy nominated album of the same name. Rev. Albert Jamison went on the succeed Rev. Cleveland after his death as the head of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) that was founded by Rev. Cleveland in 1967. The song runs over seven minutes but is cut short leaving one longing to hear the rest of the song and find out what other wonderful things may have happened that we’ll never know about.
In Gods Own TimeJames Cleveland and The Triboro Mass Choir7:15
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Many people may also be interested to learn there are two verses (at 1:16 and 2:13) that JVOI never learned. In addition, it’s also fun to hear Rev. Cleveland give his two signature asides…”Shhhh” which he uses both to quiet the audience (4:15) as well as direct the choir to sing softer (5:15) depending on when it is used, and “heh heh” (4:25) that he often uses in delight.
This song goes from 0 to 110 in the course of it’s almost 7 minutes. It’s not the highest fidelity cut, but it is pure gospel. The first two minutes are a slow, pretty amazing, tenor solo that then transitions to the entry of the entire choir with a great female lead on the continuing vamped verse “Every knee shall bow; every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord… forever and ever, let’s magnify His name.”
Great song! I’m exhausted by the end!
Forever & Ever, Let's Magnify His NameThe Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir6:48