Church Choir Projects

From Hezekiah Walker to Marvin Winans to John P. Kee, the church choir is gaining promimence on the Gospel stage. Long relegated to their well-worn spots on Sunday mornings and throughout weekday services, more recently their sounds have found their way into your Sony discman.

After some months of scanning the recording landscape, GospelFlava.com has found some fascinating church choir projects that, while due to restricted distribution may not blowing up on the national charts, are no doubt wearing out the electronic circuitry of the music systems of their respective congregational home bases.

Most, if not all of these projects, feature well-known Gospel artists who have demonstrated their commitment to their church homes by offering their considerable talent in this direction. Take a peek at these projects, and you’ll see what we mean. Be sure to check out Part Two of this series!

North Park Apostolic Music Ministry
Excellence in Worship & Praise, Volume 1
North Park Apostolic Music Ministry CD Under the musical direction of Eddie Baltrip, this San Diego congregation goes down a praise and worship path with the same flair that Baltrip brings to his own choir (The Voices of Fulfillment). Formerly with Fortress Records, Baltrip and choir are now under the MSS Records umbrella, so you could consider this church choir project as an interesting introduction to his stylings.

Selections range from a cover of Sandra Crouch's chestnut, "He's Worthy" to a royal medley of traditional excerpts ("King of Kings Medley") to Rev. Ricky Allmon's guest lead on "God Is A Spirit". Kudo tracks also include "Sing Unto The Lord", with its catchy melody and soulful lead from Robynn Calloway, and "Worthy To Be Praised" with Ruben Minor.

With producer David Suarez laying down a stellar sound, Excellence in Worship & Praise earns multiple stars.

Mount Zion Baptist Church Music Ministry
You Did It
Mount Zion Baptist Church Music Ministry CD Veteran producer Cedric Thompson handles it all on this 'must-have' that features various psalmists from the Greensboro, North Carolina congregation. Notable are the respective contributions from Bryan Pierce (from Men of Standard) and LeJuene Thompson (of Tri-City Singers) on "I Need Thee" and "Heaven".

The church choir is prominent on most tracks, with the children's choir sometimes stepping in to handle a cut or two, adding a youthful verve to the mix. The band counts Cedric Thompson on keys and Reggie Graves on guitar, so you can't miss on that factor.

This is truly the 'high-end model' when it comes to church choir projects, with the real kicker being that it comes laden with 15 tracks, packaged as a 2-CD set!

Mountain Movers Children / Youth Choir of Middle Georgia
Mountain Movers Children / Youth Choir of Middle Georgia CD Springing forth from a vibrant youth workshop ministry, this is, simply put, an inspiration. Not because it's a work of youngsters in their teens (although it is). Not because the music is powerful (although it is). The bottom line is that this disc demonstrates that God powerfully anoints whomsoever He desires. You've probably never heard of them. No matter; let there be no doubt that God has dropped his anointing on this group.

Most of the songs come from the pen of 15-year old Michael Hicks, who also lends a soulful lead to some songs, joining other equally gifted teens. The music ranges from traditional cuts such as "Let Me Tell You Who Jesus Is" to smooth small ensemble ballads such as "He's My God", to contemporary mass grooves ("It's All About You Lord"). The theme track "Mountain Mover", lead by 15-year-old Jennifer Carner, is defined by an enthusiasm that obviously stems from their conviction that through God's power, there is no mountain too large to get over.

While there are some rough edges in places, credit Joe Pace II (of Colorado Mass Choir renown) with lending a steady hand to production, musical direction and with assisting in some of the musical arrangements. And credit Pace with being wise enough to know when to stand back to let God work His power through this group of mountain movers.

Ebenezer AME Mass Choir
That's How The Lord Works
Ebenezer AME Mass Choir CD Tucked away on this CD are some great moments that too few know about. From the gorgeous artwork of Willette George, to the stellar production of Sanchez Harley, under the musical direction of Michael Robinson this Fort Washington MD church choir presents an independent project worth shouting about. Eleven tracks later the CD has stopped spinning but the blessings still reverberate.

Ministers of Music Byron Cage and Patrick Lundy contribute much of the original music here, with Cage himself taking lead on two songs ("It's Alright" and "From The Rising"). And you can't miss Evangelist Beverly Crawford powering down with her church shout style on Thomas Whitfield's "That's How The Lord Work", as well as Stephen Hurd's "We Magnify Your Name". Hurd himself sings on "From The Heart of Man", a beautifully slow worship ballad from NY songwriter, David Frazier.

Truly a 'choir's choir', Ebenezer AME Mass Choir offers power, tenderness, finesss and raw strength on this disc. It deserves to be heard.

Chris Byrd & Davidic Praise
Dr. Pat McKinstry Presents Praisebreak CD Since recently heading up his artist label, Minstrel House Music, Chris Byrd has obviously been quite busy. The latest from his camp is this PraiseBreak project, where he presents the sounds of his own church, the vocal group Davidic Praise, who hail from the Upton United Methodist Church in Toledo, Ohio, where Byrd is Minister of Music.

Byrd takes the lion's share of the songwriting, with much of the material ringing true to his penchant for a sound that is traditionally-based but contemporary-edged. Lead vocals are handled by Byrd occasionally, but also by Brian Hurst, Joyce Rush and Lorna McKinstry. Standouts include the slower praise ballads "Thank You For Your Grace" and "I Worship You".

On the production tip, the less-than-clear sound through some of the project deserves some attention, but does not significantly detract from this interesting addition to your church choir collection.

— reviewed by Stan North

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