Gospel music is a mixture of rock, blues and jazz that focuses on building a religious connection among people and between people and God. Gospel music began to grow in popularity during the 1960s, with famous gospel soloists such as, Mahalia Jackson. By the 1980s, some gospel choirs were widely known both nationally and internationally, with their music being performed in churches as well as on stages and in recording studios throughout the world.
Georgia Mass Choir
The Georgia Mass Choir was formed by Reverend Milton Biggham, also the founder of Savoy Records. Biggham, a native of Atlanta, auditioned over 600 individuals before selecting the 150 members of the choir in 1983. Additionally, Biggham served as the choir’s lead singer. The choir’s first album with Savoy was entitled, “Yes, He Can.” The choir’s popularity grew in the 90s, with the choir appearing the in the film, “The Preacher’s Wife” and at the 1996 Olympic Games.
Mississippi Mass Choir
The Mississippi Mass Choir toured and performed for the first time in the late 1980s. The choir was founded by Frank Williams, who had formerly sang with his brothers in a group called The Williams Brothers, as well as the Jackson Southernaires. With his friend David Curry, Williams announced auditions for the choir over the radio and the response was overwhelming. Since its beginnings, the Mississippi Mass Choir has performed in a church-type service with a reverend leading the performance.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
In 1981, Carol Cymbala, the choir director for the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York formed the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The choir evolved into a 285-person chorus with original songs written by Cymbala. In its history, the choir has won 6 Grammy Awards with recordings on video and DVD. What is unique about the choir is that its singers represent people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. What brings them all together, indicates Cymbala, is “Christ”.
Thompson Community Choir
One of the most well-known gospel choirs of the 1980s was the Thompson Community Choir, or Thompson Community Singers, as they were initially known. The group was formed by Reverend Milton Brunson in the 1960s in Austin, Texas. Brunson, also a producer, led his choir to record multiple albums and win a Grammy in 1995. The choir and Brunson are significant in gospel music because of their perseverance in building mass acceptance of the musical style, with Brunson ultimately being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Patrice Lesco has been a writer since 2001. Also a certified teacher, she writes for newspapers, magazines, books, theater and film. Lesco holds a Master of Fine Arts in theater from Michigan State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in education and theater from Methodist College.