- I Want To Be Ready Rev. James Cleveland & The Southern California Community Choir 2:20
In 1999, this was one of the very first songs Geoffrey Dana Hick taught his travel choir. The choir’s amazing tour of Umbria in Italy was the impetus for the founding of “Joyful Voices of Inspiration”. Although I didn’t know it at the time, many of the songs the early choir learned were James Cleveland songs because a James Cleveland album was one of the few gospel albums Geoff had in his early days of playing gospel music.
Geoff learned to play gospel at age 18 at 12th Baptist in Roxbury while attending the New England Conservatory as a classical pianist. Prior to that he had lived in various places abroad since his father was in the foreign service/diplomat.
Story goes that when he arrived in the U.S from Germany to attend The Conservatory, he was invited to dinner in at the home of Ralph Abernathy (pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church and noted civil rights leader working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King) and his wife in Atlanta Georgia. After dinner Mrs. Abernathy asked Geoff if he would play the piano for them and he played several classical pieces that they enjoyed. Impressed with his talent, Mrs. Abernathy asked Geoff to play them some gospel music. He told them he didn’t KNOW any gospel music, let alone be able to play it. Astonished, amazed, and a bit shocked, Mrs. Abernathy told Geoff to go to Union United Methodist Church, “the biggest black in Boston”, as soon as he got settled in Boston.
One Sunday Geoff decided to follow Mrs. Abernathy’s advice and got in the cab and asked the cabby to take him to “the biggest black church in Boston” since he couldn’t remember the name Mrs. Abernathy had given him. The cabby took him to 12th Baptist in Roxbury and that was that. Over the ensuing years Geoff learned to play gospel at the hands of the resident masters at 12th Baptist and eventually ended up playing at Sunday services! Today, Dr. Geoffrey Dana Hicks is not only a talented composer and pianist, he also serves as Minister of Music at Tremont Temple in downtown Boston.
I’ll post a recording of Geoff playing gospel in the near future.