Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stellar Nominees Announced

Here's a link to the list of Stellar Award Nominees for the 2006 ceremony. I don't see too many surprises here, but may weigh in a little later.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bloggin' Around The Christmas Tree . . .

Here's a roundup of stories I've found interesting lately:

Advertisers Embrace the Power that Gospel Music Has To Offer (The Washington Post): This article, written by a fellow Dow Jones Newspaper Fund grad, explores the growth in the black Christian market. I've been saying for a while now that if you want to move product, get Af-Am church folk behind it.

A great quote: "In the past, the advertisers most interested in reaching this market were small church-based entrepreneurs -- Christian book authors and small-time recording artists. But as the genre evolved from Mahalia Jackson singing sweet hymns in a choir robe to singers performing holy hip-hop for sold-out concerts in huge sports arenas, corporations noticed. "

Johnny Cash's Journey Through the Other Side of Virtue (New York Times): "Johnny Cash was a deeply flawed Christian man who could look at criminals and see a part of himself in them. . .In a world increasingly reduced to good and evil, to us versus them, Johnny Cash was a man unafraid to admit that he was both. We've somehow lost sight of the truth that there can be no redemption without sin." My friends at have also posted on Cash.

Gospel Choir Finds Inspiration, Support Through Song (Gainesville Sun): This article does a nice job of capturing the joy and energy of a college gospel choir. It talks, too, about their recent involvement in a hurricane relief benefit.

Freddy Kofi Wins Best Male at GEM awards ( A rundown piece on England's recent gospel music awards. Here's one on Canada's MAJA gospel awards.

Harlem's Other Globetrotters are Here (New Zealand Herald): A profile of a community choir touring throughout the world: "There's not much singing on the tour bus of the Harlem Gospel Choir. The time they spend on the coach is for sleeping. They're like a rock band - less the excess - tramping from city to city. They do a show, pack up, move on, wake, and sing again, all the while spreading their message of 'bringing people and nations together'. "

The Measure of Sam Cooke's Triumph (NPR): Terry Gross discusses interviews biographer Peter Guralnick's about his recently released Sam Cooke bio, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. The segment includes comments from Aretha Franklin and clips of Cooke singing gospel. Once I get my copy (Hello, Santa?) I'll post a review here. Here's the New Orleans Time Picayune's review of the book, and here's CNN's interview with Guralnick. Here's the Buffalo Times on whether or not Cooke merits the same treatment as Elvis, the subject of Guralnick's earlier work. In this interview with the Memphis Flyer, Guralnick references one of my favorite poems, Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask," comparing it to Cooke's song "Laughin' and Clownin.'"

Gospel Group Spreads Harmony (Orlando Sentinel): Profile of Brothers In Christ, a gospel group based in Florida. A quote from one of the group members: "Through gospel music, I'm able to express myself. God changed me. If God can change me, he can change anybody."

Gospel Music's Queen (Austin Weekly News): A profile of Albertina Walker, including her thoughts about dressing for church, staying faithful to the traditional gospel sound and . . .the news that there may be a Caravans reunion album next year. HOT.

The Rise and Rise of the Gospel Music Scene (The Monitor, Uganda): The growing pains faced by the growing gospel music industry in Uganda.

Gospel Stalwart Joins NCO for Thanksgiving Concert (Robertson County Times, TN): This is a cool idea: holding a Gospel Thanksgiving celebration with a chamber orchestra and a gospel artist. In this story, the orchestra is the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and the artist is Walter Hawkins. Hawkins: "Gospel can sound like any other type of music — there's gospel rap, gospel country, everybody does different styles of gospel music," said Hawkins, who has collaborated with such classic pop notables as Van Morrison. "But the thing that makes the music timeless would be the content of the message that Jesus came to save the world. If that's not the focal point, then you're not really doing gospel."

Gata's Gone to God (Fiji Times): A profile of Fijian gospel singer Marika Gata, who shares how he lost, then found, a relationship with God.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Looking For Lyrics?

According to my site meter statistics, a lot of readers first encounter this site through search engines as they look for lyrics to their favorite songs. (You mean you didn't come for the insightful commentary and trenchant observations you find here?) has a page where you can search for lyrics and chords. If you can't find the info you need there, you can post on their message board to get some help. So happy searching, and tell them Gospel Gal sent you.

If you know of some good sites for lyrics, chords and sheet music, why don't you leave the URLs in the comments section. If we get enough, maybe I'll post a roundup entry with our collective findings.

"Now, I'm Not a Freak, But . . ."

This is one of the funniest things I've heard. Ever. Period. BlogRodent, a friend of this blog, has posted on "When Worship Goes Awry." Here's the synopsis: a rather conservative visitor to a church notices a member of the praise team doing some holy swaying during service. Believing that what he has seen is out of order (an all-purpose phrase that, let's face it, covers a host of situations), he calls the pastor to bring it to his attention, leaving a rather lengthy voicemail.

But then.

The minister of music gets behind the mixing board and turntables and makes his own response, using the man's own words.

Hilarious. Go check it out.

But . . .this does provide some fodder for discussion (you knew this was coming). As I listened (OK, and listened, and listened . . .) I thought about the gospel music/black church community and our Theology of the Body. These thoughts are still pretty unformed, but I'd be interested in thinking aloud with other members of the blogosphere.

I started thinking about the messages we receive about our bodies and movement and how that affects the way we worship and relate to one another.

On the one hand, I believe it's a good thing to involve your body in worship. We know from Scripture that David, overwhelmed with joy, danced so hard that he danced out of his clothes. He danced in a way his wife found "vulgar." He must have been shakin' it pretty hard, hmmm? Here's the interchange between David and his wife in 2 Samuel 6:

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"
21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."

Sounds like David's saying, "Hey, I'm praising God, and it's not about my dignity." I've heard many a preacher attempt to whoop up a congregation by pointing out that they mustn't become too dignified and educated and sophisticated to stand up/clap/shout/"give God some praise!" (Parenthetically, this is kind of uncomfortable for the "dignified, educated, sophisticated" person who worships from a more contemplative posture, not to mention the introvert. Hell-o . . .). So I have the sense that it's important to involve ourselves physically in our worship (cue "Dancing In the Spirit," as recorded on Ron Winans Family and Friends Choir II). That means singing, clapping, swaying, dancing, rocking, etc. as we are moved.

At the same time, how do we make room for the concerns of people like the man who recorded this voicemail (and, true confessions, occasionally Gospel Gal)? His concern, though it sounds petty on his voicemail/remix, is interesting to me, because I think it says something about the tensions (*ahem*) between freedom and responsibilty. He was careful to point out that he's "not a freak," but seems to be struggling with the sense of sexuality that is present in this woman's whole-body worship.

I've occasionally been in settings where the movements, though perhaps in the context of worship, didn't seem appropriate for a church setting. I've seen gospel performances where the dancing (grinding/thrusting/shakin' like a Polaroid picture) would be a bit much, even for a family-friendly mainstream setting. And let's not even get started on some of the praise dance moves and costumes that leave me pitying the poor deacons in the front row. I mean, you'd think that with all that lame', there'd be enough to cover everyone's decolletage. Can I get a witness?

At the same time, I would hate to see the woman referred to in the message called out of line if she's simply keeping the beat by gently swaying her hips in a very natural way. I'm troubled that her movement would seem, to this man, so sexualized that it was "out of order" for church. In that case, it would seem like he was the one with issues, not her. Does that make him a weaker brother who shouldn't be caused to stumble, or someone who needs to grow into a Christian maturity that moves him beyond the ways women's bodies have been sexualized in our culture?

(Which leads to another question: aren't we still sexual beings, even in church? So how is that God-given part of us rightly expressed, or, perhaps, rightly not repressed in a worship setting?) It bothers me when, for example, churches are reluctant to include liturgical dance because they are uncomfortable with bodies and dancing, particularly women's bodies and dancing.

You can see how there are a whole host of related issues that can grow out of this rather hasty post. But then, that's what the comments section is for. There's a lot of food for thought in those three minutes of voicemail. Comment away!

Monday, November 14, 2005

In Case of Emergency, Open This Jewel Case

For a couple of weeks now, I've been eyeing a copy of Feels Good I've kept on my desk. That's correct: Take 6's latest album, which drops January 31st, 2006. You may express your envy in the comments section if you so desire. Getting my copy made for one of those moments where I considered doing a little dance around my office and humming "Can't Help Lovin' That Work of Mine" (hat tip: Show Boat).

One might think that I was simply showing admirable restraint in not jamming it into the CD player as soon as it came. But I just couldn't listen to it right away. For one thing, I wanted to create the Perfect Listening Experience before I could enjoy the album. Naturally, this would involve cleaning house from top to bottom, finishing all of the laundry, cleaning out the closets, caulking the windows for winter, balancing the checkbook, framing and hanging some artwork, making the perfect cup of coffee, and maybe lighting a candle or two (Gospel Gal occasionally has a tiny problem with perfectionism and the resulting paralysis).

But I was also afraid to end the anticipation I've felt since I heard about the forthcoming album back in June. I mean, what would I live for after I'd listened? It was almost better to just have it sitting on my desk as something to look forward to.

And then.

Last week was so busy and crazy that I knew I needed a pick-me-up like no other. A pick-me-up that didn't involve spending money or time away from all of my responsibilities (Nix on the idea of running away from home to join the circus--or running away from the circus to join a home . . .).

So I did it. I broke the glass, so to speak. I closed my office door, sipped a too-cold cup of Seattle's Best, kept working and listened.

And while I haven't yet given the album the Official, Serious Review-Worthy Listen (that comes later and involves a blank steno pad, an 0.2mm pen and hot coffee), I can say that it is a good album. Not quite as satisfying as So Cool--I really consider that album their best after So Much 2 Say--but delightful nonetheless.

So: What, for you, makes the Perfect Listening Experience? And what's the last album you couldn't wait to listen to?