Michelle Williams was 7 when she sang her first solo at Rockford’s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, where she remains a member.
After attending college, she joined Destiny’s Child, a Grammy-winning female R&B group that has since disbanded. Her first solo album, “Heart to Yours,” became the best-selling gospel release of 2002.
Now Williams, who lives in the Chicago area, is a star of a reality TV series premiering Nov. 5 on Oxygen called “Fix My Choir.” Williams and Dietrick Haddon, a Grammy-nominated gospel artist, mentor eight choirs of various ethnicities across the U.S. “that have lost their way, … culminating with unforgettable performances that will bring the house down,” according to a press release from the station. “A great choir has the potential to inspire communities and uplift people everywhere,” said Rod Aissa, a senior vice president for Oxygen Media.
Hmm. “Inspire.” “Uplift.” Sounds like the kinds of actions the year-old Transform Rockford has been advocating the past several months for this community to embrace as it undertakes turning around the city’s social and economic woes by 2025. On Tuesday, Mike Brown, president and CEO of YMCA of Rock River Valley, told 400 people at a volunteer celebration for the movement: “This is not an us versus them. It is an opportunity to share and interact with each other.”
Touche. Inspired by Brown and Williams, I interacted with local church choir members and directors as well as choir experts, and I’m sharing what I learned.
What I found most interesting is that choirs stand strong in black Protestant congregations, but not so much in white Protestant congregations. That’s according to the National Congregations Study, which surveyed 1,331 congregations in 2012, compared with 1,234 congregations in 1998. The comparisons:
– 80 percent of black Protestant congregations surveyed in 2012 said a choir performs at their main service, up from 76 percent in 1998.
– 36 percent of white Protestant congregations (evangelical and mainline) surveyed in 2012 said a choir performs at their main service, down from 50 percent in 1998.
– 68 percent of Catholic congregations surveyed in 2012 said a choir performs at their main service, compared with 70 percent in 1998.
So, why the differences?
Nina Pryor-Stanford, church administrator of Allen Chapel AME Church, Rockford, started singing at Allen Chapel when she was 4 years old and is one of about 75 members in choirs at the church. She told me music, especially gospel music, is a big part of African-American church services. “It got us through the periods of time when things were not so great,” she said, referring to slavery. “Old spiritual hymns gave us hope.”
SOURCE: RRStar – Georgette Braun