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Glorifying gospel's exuberant joy!

By Sara Hill
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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Although baptized as a Catholic (I attended St. Columbus School & Church, Schenectady), I was enriched by the experience of the African American church and gospel music.

My foster parents instilled in me and my siblings that, in our household, the kids were going to church every Sunday; as my mom would say, “You’re going to somebody’s church!" That "somewhere" is at the heart of one of my fondest memories: embracing my own sense of spirituality through coming of age in the close-knit church community of Refreshing Spring COGIC (Schenectady) and Wilborn Temple (COGIC) in Albany.

At Refreshing Spring -- at that time under the leadership of the late Elder Eugene Dix and Mother Dix -- I embraced the opportunity to sing in the youth choir, attended afternoon and evening services, and went on church event trips and connected to a community that would be dear to my heart "like family," as it remains so to this day.

Thanks to the soul-searing music and the committed choir directors of both these churches, I developed a strong and abiding love for gospel music and its power to uplift the spirit and elevate the collective mindset of everyone involved. As a result, I pursued a career in the performing arts.  

Anyone who grows up in and is nurtured by the black church community knows that this is where “real” singers perform the classics by legendary gospel greats such as James Cleveland, The Caravans, The Hawkins Family, Albertina Walker, Andre Couch and Shirley Caesar, to name only a few.

My first live concert came as I stood listening to “the choir” as it marched into the church and headed toward the choir stand accompanied by the brilliance of an organist (the late great Mabel Ivry) -- with only one microphone, well before the drum kit became part of the gospel scene. The delivery of the church choir was at once soul stirring, inspirational, awe-inspiring and powerful beyond belief through my youthful eye!

I look forward to April 22 -– a Sunday, of course -– at 5 p.m. at Proctors and sharing and giving testament to the rich legacy of my "church” background with a wider audience from throughout the Capital Region. The event, Gospel Jubilee, will give flight to gospel music and its meaning to those of us who were cultivated and nurtured in the church community.

I invite every reader to come and to experience and enjoy the spellbinding array of gospel favorites offered by noteworthy local soloists and ensembles and featuring an uplifting, combined mass choir directed by host Rev. Elgin Joseph Taylor Sr. of Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Albany.

The evening of inspiring gospel proudly features a special tribute to late activist, innovator and pastor, Dr. Georgetta Dix of Refreshing Springs Church of God In Christ in Schenectady, including a video tribute and musical dedication by the Russ Sisters, followed by remarks by Rep. Paul Tonko to round out the recognition.

Along with Rev. Elgin Joseph Taylor Sr., this event is hosted by First Lady "Nobie" Teague of New Bethel Community Church of God in Christ (Schenectady).

Bishop N.D. Lewis will appear as a special guest at Gospel Jubilee. Lewis is the senior pastor of The Family Of Faith Full Life Center Church, which is one church in two locations, and the presiding bishop of the East Coast region of the Full Life Fellowship of Churches. As a singer, Lewis has shared the stage with the late Albertina Walker, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, the late Jessie Dixon, Walt Whitman and The Soul Children of Chicago, Stephanie Mills and Donnie Mcclurkin to name a few.

Other participants at the April 22 event include the Hamilton Hill Arts Center's Steel Drummers and The Emmanuel Baptist Church Praise Dancers (Bronx).

As we celebrate community, music and leadership, we reflect in tribute to the late Pastor Georgetta Dix, whose gentle voice, in between choir selections, always moved me -- just as her spirit, boundless energy and strong embrace of community moved thousands of others throughout the region. I know that on April 22 she will be smiling down in awe and blessing this Gospel Jubilee as the sounds of this electrifying music washes us in waves of heightened emotion that will envelop us all.

Sara Hill is marketing manager at Proctors and founder of Sista Factory (Soulful Inspirational Sounds To Admire). Readers may remember her as an on-air personality with Dave Lucas on WABY Radio in the 80s with a gospel format Ms. Hill will co-present Gospel Jubilee at Proctors. For Hill, being included among the honorees for the African American Family Day Tribute to Black Women in the Arts last August, was a "spectacular moment," professionally and personally. She anticipates that Gospel Jubilee will rival that moment.

To learn even more about Proctors, click HERE.

 
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