Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Love for the Church Choir Songwriters

This year has been slim pickings for new Church Choir material if you are only relying on mainstream radio for your source of information.  Thank God for social media sites e.g., SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and YouTube.  SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube have been my mainstay for great music!  Thank you to all songwriters who compose music for the “Church Choir.” The songs you pen are the true heart of music ministry.  Never doubt your relevance or works for the Kingdom.  You are awesome vessels and I am honored to call you co-laborers. 

And speaking of great Church Choir music, the Allstate Gospel SuperFest provided a wonderful platform for the awesome music ministries of some of Chicago’s best choirs.  Chicago was well represented by: Dexter Walker & Zion Movement, and Joshua’s Troop (for the “New School” Gospel crowd) Chicago Mass Choir and Bishop Larry Trotter & Sweet Holy Spirit Mass Choir (for the Traditional/”Old School” Gospel crowd), and Ricky Dillard & New G and Lonnie Hunter & The Voices of St. Mark (for the Contemporary Gospel Crowd).  If you are looking for great “Church Choir” Gospel music from this century, feel free to check out my SoundCloud “Sonja’s Gospel Station”!

    Bishop Larry D. Trotter & The Sweet Holy Spirit Combined Choirs  (2009)
By Tyscott Records
Chicago Mass Choir (2011)     Photographer: Randi Anglin
  Dexter Walker & Zion Movement (2012) By Verizon's How Sweet The Sound
Joshua’s Troop  (2010) By Joshua's Troop
  Lonnie Hunter & The Voices of St. Mark(2009) By ChoirMasterTV
Ricky Dillard & New G (2011) By Entertainment One Nashville

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Songwriter’s Responsibility

One of my co-laborers in ministry was looking at my music catalogue and inquired why one of Black Gospel music’s best selling songs was not a part of my repertoire. I informed her that I was tired of the song.  The song was an awesome production of instruments and vocal expertise.  The problem was, the song did not make any sense.  It was as if the songwriter penned a bunch of random thoughts together and made it into a song.  The concept would have worked had there been check and balances in place by the songwriter, the artists, the producer, the record label, and the program director.  But the ultimate responsibility belongs to the songwriter, especially in the Black Gospel music industry. 

The Black Gospel music industry seems to be of the mindset that if a song saturates the airwaves and social media, issues and all, it will be a commercial success.  After all, a brand is involved so it must be good...really?  There is nothing more exciting than a “brand” making a star out of a someone who has had limited success as an artist.  So who is going to tell a brand that their song consists of random thought patterns, similar to someone who might be bi-polar?  Apparently no one who could make a difference.

The industry is extremely bold in its insult to consumers.  They allow songs to be sold and aired that clearly have issues that should have been fixed while in production.  I liken the Black Gospel music industry to a parent that gives a child a constant diet of sugar and fast food all of the formative years of their lives.  It’s a quick fix and unhealthy, “but everyone is doing it” and generates a lot of revenue.  We all know that vegetable and whole grains are better for you but those types of foods will never sell as well as fast foods and sweets.  I realize that many of the mainstream record companies and radio stations are only concerned about a song’s commercial success, but this is Gospel music.  It's supposed to be more than a melody, a beat, and vocal runs and riffs.

I am not alone in my belief that the industry as a whole is lacking in music for the purpose of ministry.  Aside from the songs for the Praise and Worship portion of our church services, we are limited in new music selections appropriate for Sunday morning choir ministry if we solely rely on mainstream radio programming.  Many Black Gospel chorale directors and music enthusiasts alike don’t listen to mainstream radio on a regular basis.  They are turning to online radio, YouTube, and streaming media sites such as SoundCloud and Spotify to find great music.  As such, more and more, Black Gospel industry brands are now hosting mainstream radio shows to attract listeners.  

Too many songwriters are cranking out so much watered down Gospel music that has absolutely, nothing to do with the Bible.  It is commercially appealing but it is not suitable for the church atmosphere.  It’s perfect for showmanship, but does nothing for the sake of ministry.  I was taught that Gospel music is supposed to edify, uplift, encourage, persuade, and console the listener.  That it sets the atmosphere for praise and worship, and for the Word of God to resonate with the hearer. 

We, who are blessed with the gift and anointing to pen the Word of God in song, should never be contributors to the indifference that laces the Black Gospel music industry.  We must walk in our call and continue to be responsible songwriters.

I bid you God’s peace, blessings, and much love.