GMWA Mass Choir
Behind The Curtain

"When I looked behind the curtain,
The floor showed reflections of gold,
The walls were textured with jasper."

—from "Behind The Curtain"

With V. Michael McKayís pen attributed to the title track from this latest in annual offerings from the nationís premier workshop choir, the firstBehind The Curtain CD thing that many fingers will do when they crack this CD open is to press for track 4, "Behind The Curtain".

Detailing our expectation of heavenís Glory, McKay ushers us there with distinctly classical approach, both in song structure and choice of gentle keyboards and muted strings. But it is surely soloist Henrietta Davis who lets herself be used as the perfect soprano instrument to get there, as she opts to deliver the lyrics in a very operatic style that at once reflects awe, grandeur, joy and reverence. With melodic elements of the hymnal favorite "I Cried Holy" evident, the mass choirís chorus interjections help to build the song to its majestic climax, with Davisí vocal tone breaking from the restraints of classicism and soaring into Gospel sound at points.

A two-minute reprise of the song at albumís end brings in an uncredited male soloist ad libbing the familiar chorus of "Iíll Fly Away" to the delight of the choir and congregation, unifying the album.

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Elsewhere on this project from MCG Records, several cuts stand out, including church stompers such as "Who Shall Separate Me" with a prominent sax run from Donald Hayes, a burning cut from one of traditional Gospelís finest songwriters, Eddie Robinson ("Jesus Is His Name") as well as "Heís Blessing Me" from Norris Garner.

Youíll also find a contribution from James Bignon, who delivers his renowned and heavily gritted vocals on his self-penned "If You Hold Out (God Will Come Through)". Californiaís Eugene Cole testifies amidst outpourings of Hammond B3 and rhythms on the mid-tempo "Heís Just That Kind of God". Debbie Steele (formerly with The Richard Smallwood Singers) handles a gently flowing, yet majestic remake of "All Hail The Power" from Sean T. Deveaux, with soprano grace.

As in previous years, the live recording of The GMWA Mass Choir was captured on video, providing a fascinating visual insight into the workings of a mass choir recording. Itís worth checking out for that reason alone, not to mention the added dimension of the visual experience adding to the aural.

MCGís Jerry Peters joined with the GMWAís Rodena Preston-Williams on the production of Behind the Curtain. Both can rightly claim that this is another in the long string of mass choir triumphs from the Workshop.

Producers: Jerry Peters, Rodena Preston-Williams
album release date: March 28, 2001
MCG Records

ó reviewed by Stan North ó

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