INSPIRED: Soloist Shirley Jones with The Living Sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO LISTEN TO MUSIC SAMPLES, CLICK HERE.

Gospel is more than just a music genre; it’s an experience. To understand its power, you have to see the singers’ faces, hear the volume of their voices. The music can send chills down your spine and bring tears to your eyes. Entire congregations jump to their feet in song, clapping and swaying to the rhythm.

Harmony and praise join to stir the soul with gospel music, and gospel choirs deliver the message. These performers are not rock stars or pop idols, but they can move their audiences with just as much emotion, prompting many a “Yes, Lord!” and “Thank you, Jesus!” Whether you’re a faithful churchgoer or can barely find your way through the doors on Christmas Eve, gospel choirs can lift your spirits.

Dallas has many outstanding groups and choirs. From small community church choirs tucked away in sleepy suburbia to Grammy Award-winning, 200-member mass choirs to quartets and solo artists, you don’t have to drive far to find one.

Forget your preconceived notions of church choirs. Instead of being somewhere out of sight, the organist or pianist of a gospel choir might be front and center, flanked by a full band, including horns. Choir members may not be draped in robes; they could be sporting colorful chiffon ponchos or jeans and white button-downs with pink ties. A soloist might step out from behind the altar to sing with fervor, her voice flying high above the chorus.

But church isn’t the only place you can go to enjoy the music. As it was more than 100 years ago, gospel is a Southern folk tradition. Groups gather wherever there’s a venue. It might be at the local community center, coffee shop, or Meyerson Symphony Center.

To bring you this list of the top gospel choirs in town, we asked local DJs and choir directors to name their favorites. Among the more than 50 named, five choirs and three groups appeared on almost every ballot. Don’t wait until Sunday to experience the music: listen to a sample from each of the Best Gospel Choirs and Groups in Dallas by visiting www.dmagazine.com.


BEST CHOIR: THE LIVING SOUND >>
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Pastor Rickie Rush
CHOIR: More than 165 singers; 10-piece band
WHERE: Inspiring Body of Christ Church, 7710 S. Westmoreland Rd. 972-572-4262
WHEN: Sunday services, 7:30 & 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m.

Pastor and music director Rickie Rush likes to challenge congregants to stay seated during an entire Living Sound performance. They rarely, if ever, meet that challenge. The 14-year-old choir is motivated by a passion to make “the word of God come alive through music,” and staying in your seat during a performance is tough. The music is lively, energetic, inspirational, and motivational, and Rush pens many of the songs with a specific message in mind. He wants the music to be “seen, heard, and learned.” Their CDs, The Living Sound, Volume One and The Living Sound, Volume Two can be purchased at the church store.


<< BEST GROUP: THE TEXAS BOYZ
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Ken Washington
GROUP: Four singers; five-piece band
WHERE: Local and national venues; see www.thetexasboyz.com for details
WHEN: Jan 21, 7:30 p.m. at Terrell Performing Arts Center (400 Poetry Rd., Terrell. 972-563-4731)

Known for their blend of traditional vocals with contemporary flavor, brothers Ken, Cecil, Glen, and Quintin Washington have been singing together for more than 30 years. For Cecil, the songwriter and lead singer, the music must have more than just a good beat; it needs to “reach a person’s soul.” The group—nominated for a 2005 Stellar Award—performs almost every weekend in cities across the United States. Their most recent release, Only the Strong Survive, is available at www.amazon.com or www.blackberryrecords.com.


BEST YOUTH CHOIR: TOTAL PRAISE >>
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Adolphus “Bud” Dean
CHOIR: About 45 singers; four-piece band
WHERE: City Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1530 Bonnie View Rd. 214-942-3870
WHEN: Every second and fourth Saturday at 11 a.m.

If you don’t see it with your own eyes, you won’t believe that this mighty choir is composed of young adults. They sing locally and nationally with the maturity and strength of choirs that have been around longer than these kids have been alive. Much of the credit goes to Adolphus “Bud” Dean, who founded the choir in 1996 and in 2003 was awarded the Youth Director Steeple Award. The choir’s CD, Faithful, is a fantastic mix of full-choir gospels as well as outstanding solo spirituals. It is available at www.dallascitytemple.org.

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RUNNERS-UP

The Christianettes
Music Director: Alice Loggins
Group: Seven singers; four-piece band
Where: Local and national venues
When: Dec 4, 3:30 p.m. at Community First Baptist Church (3535 S. Westmoreland Rd. 214-337-2744)

Influenced by gospel legend Shirley Ceasar, the Christianettes adopted her sound and gave it their own spin. Group members have changed in the 30 years since they started singing together, but they still perform many of the songs written by original member Corine Walton. The seven female singers might be the hardest working women in gospel, performing every weekend, sometimes three or four times. For more information or to purchase CDs and cassettes, call
817-413-7692.

First Baptist Church of Hamilton Park Male Chorus
Music Director:
John Sherow-Tatum
Choir: About 100 singers; four-piece band
Where: First Baptist Church of Hamilton Park, 300 E. Phillips St., Richardson. 972-235-4235
When: The third Sunday of each month during the 10:30 a.m. service; Dec. 4, 7 p.m. at Eisemann Center (2351 Performance Dr., Richardson. 972-744-4600); guest performances at other local, national, and international venues

From the first notes of the melody, the Hamilton Park Male Chorus surprises. Classically trained pianist John Sherow-Tatum is the choir’s music director, and he reworks traditional gospel songs to fit the choir’s sound. Though the choir has roots in gospel—singing anything from slow spirituals to uplifting hymns—they adapt to any situation; they are known to include European anthems and even operatic tunes in their sets. To purchase a CD, call 972-235-4235.

The Mighty Travelers
Music Directors/Writers: Kenneth Stokes and James Jennings
Group: Four singers; four-piece band
Where: Local and national venues
When: Dec 12, 6 p.m. at Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church (8205 Burton Rd. 214-388-3233)

Thirty years ago, when he was just 14, Kenneth Stokes started the Mighty Travelers with his cousins. Since then, the sound has matured from traditional gospel to soulful contemporary with a heavy R&B influence. Most of their songs are original works, with as much care put into instrumentation as vocalization. The group performs locally about five times a year, so don’t miss them when they’re in town. Their CD, Lord, I Need You, is available at Sam’s Records (3434 Sunnyvale St. 214-375-1376) and His Place (233 W. Jefferson Blvd. 214-948-3653). For more information, call 214-381-0768.

The Potter’s House Choir
Music Director:
Minister Steve Lawrence
Choir: About 200 singers; seven-piece band
Where: The Potter’s House of Dallas, 6777 W. Kiest Blvd. 214-331-0954
When: The first and third Sunday of every month, 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services; guest performances at national venues

It’s no wonder that the Potter’s House Choir won a 2003 Grammy Award for the album A Wing and a Prayer; the music is universal. As choir director, Minister Steve Lawrence takes great care in selecting music that reaches a congregation with cultural, economic, and racial differences. The choir sings potent hymnals, spirituals, and anthems during Potter’s House services and at national events such as the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Stellar Music Awards. A Wing and a Prayer is available at www.amazon.com.

St. John Music Ministry
Music Director:
Clark Joseph
Choir: 75-100 singers at each venue, more than 250 when singing together for special events and holidays; eight-piece band
Where: St. John Baptist Church, 1701 W. Jefferson St., Grand Prairie. 972-263-5955; 2805 Market Loop, Ste. 300, Southlake. 817-442-5646; Nokia Theatre, 1001 Performance Pl., Grand Prairie. 972-854-5111
When: Wednesdays, 7 p.m., and Sundays, 7 a.m., on W. Jefferson; Sundays, 9 a.m. on Market Loop; Sundays, 10 a.m. at Nokia Theatre

Each of St. John Baptist’s five choirs is fantastic individually, but when they come together to form one mass choir, the result is a harmonic hailstorm. Their voices resonate in your body and soul. The majority of their repertoire is traditional gospel, but every now and then, music director Clark Joseph adds some spice. As a Sunday morning choir, they are dedicated to music that inspires worship and faith. To find out more information or to order a CD, go to www.sjbcfamily.com.

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TOTAL PRAISE
MEET THE PANELISTS

RODDRICK ARMSTRONG
minister of music, New Mount Zion Baptist Church

DWIGHT L. AUSBROOKS
director of music, Golden Gate Missionary Baptist Church

WARREN BROOKS
program/music director, Heaven 97 FM

REVEREND EZRA DAVIS
gospel announcer, KNON 89.3 FM

MINISTER STEVE LAWRENCE
director of music and fine art, Potter’s House

BISHOP JAMES RICHARDSON
gospel announcer, KNON 89.3 FM; pastor Freedom for All Prison Ministries Community Church

E.L. ROBINSON
gospel announcer, KNON 89.3 FM

FRANCES SMITH
gospel announcer, KNON 89.3 FM

LADY TREE
gospel format director, KNON 89.3 FM

JEROME THOMAS
program/music director, Great Gospel Radio 1040 AM

JOYCE TOLBERT
gospel announcer, KNON 89.3 FM