John Thorpe and Truth to close out ‘Gospel In Person’ concert series

John Thorpe and Truth
John Thorpe (second from right) and Truth

Sponsored by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex – John Thorpe and Truth are set to take the stage for the fifth and final installment of the “Gospel In Person” concert series, presented by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in partnership with Just Love In Person community service organization and Gentry Visuals production company. The event gets underway Saturday, April 29, at 6 pm, at the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC.

“Gospel In Person” is a multipart celebration of the rich Black gospel music history found in North Carolina’s rural Person County, located in the Piedmont region along Virginia’s border. Since the fall of 2022, the concert series has included live performances featuring MG Music Group, The Torain Family, Just Us Guys, The Spiritual Lights, and The Mighty Harmonaires, along with short documentaries chronicling the performers’ histories and Person County roots. John Thorpe and Truth round out the series this month.

John Thorpe and Truth was founded in April 2012, by Thorpe, Lorenzo Dixon, and Robert Lunsford. Since organizing, the group members have performed throughout their home state of North Carolina and along the east coast, engaging traditional gospel enthusiasts with their infectious charisma, rollicking drives, and passion for spreading the good news in song. In 2015, they released their debut project, Stay With Jesus. An EP, Come By Here, followed in 2019, as well as their second full-length project, Let Him In. The group’s current single is, “I Made It.” John Thorpe and Truth have earned multiple Rhythm of Gospel Award nominations and are Season 14 recipients of the Prayze Factor Award. The present roster of singers and musicians includes Thorpe and Dixon along with Jamaal Moore, Brandon Gibbs, Bernard Dixon, Jarmaal Lawson, Iakee Pettiford, Zynell Hardnett, and Giovanni Hardnett.

Before founding John Thorpe and Truth, Thorpe traveled the gospel highway with the Mighty Jubilaires of Newburgh, NY, and The Brower Brothers of Newark, NJ. Upon returning to North Carolina in 1999, he brought together his 13 siblings to form an aggregation known simply and fittingly as The Thorpe Family. He says it was a last wish of his mother Vida—with whom he sang his first song at age five—for him to “keep the family together.” Thorpe, the ninth of fourteen children, honored her request through his family’s shared love of singing, and The Thorpe Family went on to spread the gospel, eventually releasing two CDs, In His Name (2007) and Child Of God (2012). The latter was recorded live at the Kirby Theater with special guest, Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones.

The Thorpe Family

“John Thorpe is a force—from his stature, to his bellowing voice, to his incomparable energy,” says Just Love In Person’s Michael Gentry, who is also the creator and producer of the forthcoming feature-length documentary titled, Gospel In Person, which premieres in June 2023.

“And with Truth,” Gentry continues, “he is indeed surrounded by awesome talent. In the Dixon brothers, Jamaal Moore, Jarmaal Lawson, and others, John is surrounded by men who were born and bred in Person County quartet and can all sing and play. And they’ll dance too. The John Thorpe and Truth concert will be a high-energy celebration and a fitting way to end this beautiful concert series.”

Purchase tickets for the live concert on Saturday, April 29, at https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/19211/kirby-cultural-arts-complex/. Kirby Theater is located at 213 N. Main Street.

Spiritual Lights, Mighty Harmonaires co-headline ‘Gospel In Person’ concert series – April 1

Sponsored by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex – The Spiritual Lights and The Mighty Harmonaires, two quartet-styled groups each with over fifty years of ministry in song, will share the stage for the fourth installment of the “Gospel In Person” series. The series is presented by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in partnership with Just Love In Person community service organization and Gentry Visuals production company. The ticketed concert performance takes place at the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC, on Saturday, April 1, at 6 pm.

“Gospel In Person” is a multipart celebration of the rich Black gospel music history found in North Carolina’s rural Person County, located in the Piedmont region along Virginia’s border. The schedule of events includes live concert performances with short documentaries through April 2023, as well as a feature-length documentary film, Gospel In Person, which is set to premiere in June 2023. 

Concertgoers are in for an evening of high-spirited singing and praise as The Spiritual Lights and The Mighty Harmonaires each render some of their most requested songs.

The Spiritual Lights

The Spiritual Lights
The Spiritual Lights have sung God’s praises for nearly six decades.

The Spiritual Lights, formed circa 1964 by the late Isaac Daye, have been spreading the gospel in song for nearly six decades. In the ‘60s, the Lights took innovative approaches to enhance their sound, being among the first gospel groups in the area to incorporate both a lead and bass guitar as well as drums and a PA system.

In 1980, The Spiritual Lights cut a 45 RPM record with “Send A Blessing Our Way,” written by Robert Lunsford, Jr., and “Working for My Savior,” written by Melvin Cash. “Working for My Savior” became one of their most-performed drives. In 1995, they released Trust the Lord, a full-length project with all original songs. By now, Melvin had emerged as a primary songwriter for the group. In 2005, the Lights released another full-length project—a 12-song disc titled, Still A Few Things. The recording was dedicated to the memory of Leroy Cash, who had passed four years prior. Leroy was a beloved lead singer and writer of several of the group’s popular songs, including “Meet Me There,” “Show Some Sign,” and “He’s Alright.”

Clyde Cash, lead singer and manager, is the current lineup’s only original member. Andrew Daye continues in the ministry his father founded, serving as bass guitarist. They are joined by members Wanda Coleman, Marshall Johnson, Leland Gadson, Sr., Solomon Smith, Cynthia Cash Dixon, Iakee Pettiford, and Melvin Cash. 

The Mighty Harmonaires

The Mighty Harmonaires
The Mighty Harmonaires are pictured with original members, 2nd and 3rd from left, the late Richard Carrington and Cynthia Carrington Petty.

A Children’s Day program at Old Mount Zion Baptist Church in April 1968 would be the beginning of the singing ministry later known as The Mighty Harmonaires. It is where Willie Carrington and his two children, Cynthia and Richard, sang The Sensational Nightingales’ “It’s Gonna Rain” and the elder Carrington was inspired to continue cultivating his children’s musical talents. The group was formally organized in 1971, with Willie accompanying his family on guitar. Richard went on to become the group’s bass guitar player, and several family members and friends joined The Mighty Harmonaires over the years as singers and musicians.

In 1986, the quartet released its first project titled, No Need to Worry, with Richard as writer on the tracks “I’m Glad Jesus Loves Me” and “He’s Around.” (Many years later, his musicianship gained the attention of the Brooklyn Allstars, who enlisted him as a member for a period of time.) In 2009, The Mighty Harmonaires released another project, One Day. Richard again sat at the writer’s desk for several tracks.

With the passing of her father (2011) and brother (2020), Cynthia Carrington Petty carries on the family ministry as the Harmonaires’ sole surviving original member. Alongside her are her children Cinzia P. Harris and Stavonna Petty, along with J.C. Bailey and Leland Gadson, Sr. R.J. Carrington follows in the footsteps of his father as bass guitarist. Together, they continue to deliver renditions of some of Black gospel quartet’s popular songs along with their own arrangements. 

Gospel In Person Documentary

In addition to their upcoming live concert, The Spiritual Lights and The Mighty Harmonaires are among area singers and musicians featured in the documentary, Gospel In Person, which is scheduled to premiere in June 2023. According to Michael Gentry, the film’s creator and producer, Gospel In Person “will tell the history of the great musical anointing that has rested upon Person County.”

“It is fitting that The Spiritual Lights and Mighty Harmonaires have joined together for the next concert in our ‘Gospel In Person’ series,” says Gentry. “These two groups both began in the 1960s as family groups and more than fifty years later, they are both still mostly made up of family. Both groups still have one original member and second- and third-generation family members, and in both groups the musicians are homegrown.”

He continues, “The Spiritual Lights and Mighty Harmonaires represent the Person County values of humility, community, and perseverance. And both groups have no problem letting the Holy Ghost have His way. That is why they are so beloved here in this community.”

Purchase tickets for the live concert on Saturday, April 1, at https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/19211/kirby-cultural-arts-complex/.

The Manns, Dr. Bobby Jones to be honored at 2023 BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards

(Atlanta, GA – March 7, 2023) BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) will honor Gospel superstars Tamela and David Mann and Dr. Bobby Jones at its 22nd Annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards to be held at Flourish Atlanta on March 30. The inspirational ceremony will recognize the impact that the three legendary entertainers have made on the genre and beyond and pay tribute to the songwriters and publishers behind the best in Gospel music. The private event will be hosted by BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI Vice President, Creative, Atlanta, Catherine Brewton.

“BMI is thrilled to be back in Atlanta celebrating the best in Gospel music,” said Brewton. “We’re extremely proud to honor powerhouse couple Tamela and David Mann for their incredible contributions to the Gospel community, the enduring legacy of Dr. Bobby Jones, and the songwriters and publishers behind the top Gospel songs of the previous year. Through song and praise, they deliver inspirational messages of hope, faith, and goodwill to music lovers around the world. We feel truly blessed to bring these trailblazers together in fellowship and celebrate their creative works.”

Throughout the ceremony, BMI will also recognize the songwriters, producers, and music publishers of the past year’s 25 most-performed Gospel songs in the United States. The BMI Gospel Song, Songwriter, and Publisher of the Year will also be named during the event.

Together, Tamela and David Mann have become staples in the Gospel community and have flourished across radio, television, film, and stages around the world. The iconic couple began their professional music careers in the ‘90s after joining the Gospel group Kirk Franklin and the Family and toured the globe. They went on to develop successful solo careers and joint ventures as a couple in music and beyond, creating Tillymann Entertainment in 2005, a home for all of their many projects in entertainment. In 2018, David and Tamela released Us Against the World, their first collaborative album as a duo. The companion book of that album won an NAACP Image® Award for Outstanding Literary Work, and the album’s singles have topped the charts, including the Urban AC track “Ups & Downs.” Most recently, The Manns embarked on the acclaimed “Overcomer Family Tour,” a mixture of music and comedy, featuring their son David Jr. and their daughters La’Tia and Tiffany Mann. 

As a solo artist, Tamela has released six studio albums and has received a GRAMMY Award, BET Award, Billboard Music Award, and multiple NAACP Image, Stellar Gospel Music, and GMA Dove Awards. She was also the first Gospel lead artist in Billboard Gospel radio chart history to score three consecutive No. 1 singles from her album Best Days. Beyond music, The Manns have appeared in numerous Tyler Perry plays, films, and television shows, including I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Meet the Browns and Madea Goes to Jail, among others, and the pair also starred in their own sitcom, Mann & Wife, and the docuseries, It’s a Mann’s World.

In addition, the esteemed singer, TV host, and radio broadcaster Dr. Bobby Jones will be celebrated, honoring his illustrious career spanning more than 40 years. For more than 35 years, he was the host of Bobby Jones Gospel on BET, which was the highest-rated show on the network and longest-running original cable show in history. Jones is credited for giving Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, and many others their first national exposure on television. 

An established Gospel singer and songwriter, Jones received a GRAMMY Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group in 1984 for “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today” with Barbara Mandrell. He also received a Dove Award, three Stellar Awards, and a presidential commendation from President George W. Bush, among several other awards and accolades. He currently serves as a UNICEF Ambassador and was inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame (BMEWOF) in February 2023.  

‘Gospel In Person’ series to feature Just Us Guys – March 4

Just Us Guys

Pictured a few years ago at a singing engagement are members of the group Just Us Guys, from left to right: Nathaniel Vincent, Rev. McArthur Pettiford, Marshall Johnson, Gerald Lunsford, the late Wallace Hedgspeth, David Ramsey, and Jimmy Lunsford. They are accompanied by musicians, background from left: Tyrik Bradley, Iakee Pettiford, and R.J. Carrington. (Photo provided by Michael Gentry)

Sponsored by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex – The Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in partnership with Just Love In Person community service organization and Gentry Visuals production company is set to continue its successful run of the “Gospel In Person” series Saturday, March 4, featuring Just Us Guys.

Just Us Guys delivers traditional Black quartet gospel, leaning into the stylings of quartet mainstays like the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Canton Spirituals, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. The cast of singers is a spin-off from two earlier well-known groups from the Person County area, The Mighty Gospel Travelers and The Gospel Supremes (both now defunct), and is comprised of former members of both groups along with their sons and nephews.

Just Us Guys’ live performance is sure to honor the memory of beloved members Wallace Hedgspeth and James Lunsford, who passed on in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Attendees will also be treated to a short documentary titled, A Living Legacy, by David Ramsey, Rev. McArthur Pettiford, and Stacey Pettiford; all of whom are renowned singers and alumni of The Mighty Gospel Travelers. Ramsey and Rev. Pettiford are also frontmen for Just Us Guys.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/19211/kirby-cultural-arts-complex/. The show takes place at the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC, and starts at 6 pm. 

About the “Gospel In Person” Series

“Gospel In Person” is a multipart celebration of the rich Black gospel music history found in North Carolina’s rural Person County, located in the Piedmont region along Virginia’s border. The schedule of events includes live concert performances with short documentaries through April 2023, as well as a feature-length documentary film, Gospel In Person, which premieres in June 2023. Michael Gentry, the film’s creator and producer, hopes the documentary will duly honor some of the community’s legends whose impact has created ripple effects throughout the broader gospel music scene.

Donald Lawrence revives Edwin Hawkins’ Music & Arts Seminar as Music + Arts Global

MUSIC + ARTS GLOBAL flyer

Choir music is as popular as ever. The world watched on television as London’s Kingdom Choir sang at Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s royal wedding. South Africa’s award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir has performed on the Academy Awards. The USA’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir lifted their voices during Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony. Today, choir music is not only sung in churches around the world. It’s featured in TV commercials and films, sampled by pop artists, and played in dance clubs on six continents. It’s against this backdrop that GRAMMY® Award winning choirmaster Donald Lawrence is reviving his mentor, the legendary late Edwin Hawkins’ annual Music & Arts Seminar that was birthed in 1979 and reimagining it for the 21st century as a bi-annual conference, Music + Arts Global.  

“I want to see young people really benefit from the art…,” Hawkins said of the Music & Arts Seminar in a 1987 interview with Totally Gospel Magazine. “I don’t want it to be just another social affair. …I’d like to eventually take the convention out of the states…just to keep it fresh.” While that hope didn’t materialize during Hawkins’ lifetime, it’s happening April 27-29, 2023, when Lawrence will present the newly renamed conference Music + Arts Global at the Gaumont State Theatre (197-99 High Road NW6 7HY) in the Kilburn district of London, England.

“Choir music is everywhere, and music is a universal language,” Lawrence says. “A lot of people in the Baltic states can really sing well.  I’ve visited many countries and worked with their choirs. I conducted a 500-voice choir at Duomo Cathedral in Florence, Italy with 30,000 people in attendance. A lot of the leaders in different cities asked for me to come and teach their choirs. Instead of me going to all of them, I said why don’t we all meet in London for this first year and then I’ll come to you the next year. So, we’ve got choirs coming from Sweden, Latvia, Denmark, and so many other places.” Bazil Meade MBE (the pioneering founder of the 40+ year old London Community Gospel Choir that’s given royal command performances and performed with a who’s who in music) and Ayce Oyerinde, are handling on the ground promotions for Music + Arts Global through their London-based firm, GloFest International.

Lawrence’s plan is to expand upon the rich legacy of the Music & Arts Seminar. Each day there will be educational courses on topics such as vocal blending; incorporating spoken word, dance, and theater into a choir’s stage presentation; and how to dress a choir and create its fashion imprint. Audio sound designer Armando Fullwood will join 7x GRAMMY® Award winning engineer Danny Duncan (who’s worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Israel Houghton) to introduce VenueFlex/ChoirFlex, a new technology that enhances audio clarity for an immersive acoustic listening experience. On Friday night, Volney Morgan of the MOBO Award winning gospel group Volney Morgan & New-Ye, will host a showcase of dynamic choirs from throughout the European continent and the United Kingdom. 

There will also be guest appearances by music veterans such as Anthony Brown (of Anthony Brown & group therAPy), William Murphy, Ted Winn, Vincent Bohanan, Rodney Posey, and Derrick Starks. Songwriter Jeffrey LaValley will not only share his musical knowledge with attendees, but he will also tell the story behind his song “Revelations 19:1.” It was originally recorded by the New Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir in 1985. Over the years, the song has become a staple in church worship services. However, it became a TikTok and viral hit after the Sunday Service Choir recorded it and made it popular with a new generation of fans in 2022.

Music + Arts Global concludes with a big Saturday night concert. An international mass choir will pay tribute to singer LaShun Pace and to the Hawkins Family’s longtime bassist, Joel Smith, who both passed away in recent years. The choir will perform songs from the vast musical catalogues of Donald Lawrence, the Music & Arts Seminar, The Hawkins Family, and the guest choirmasters. GRAMMY® Award winning producer Cedric Thompson will serve as music director alongside Edwin Hawkins’ longtime music director, Derrick Hall. The sterling band will also include The Isley Brothers’ drummer, Calvin Rogers. Singer DeWayne Woods of “Let Go, Let God” fame will be on hand as Lawrence’s assistant vocal director.

Edwin Hawkins
Hawkins

In his career, Edwin Hawkins earned 19 GRAMMY® Award nominations and four wins, including one for the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ million-selling single, “O Happy Day,” which peaked in the Top 5 on the Billboard R&B and Pop singles charts in 1969. The Oakland, CA-based choir was one of the leading acts of the music industry for two decades with other hits like “To My Father’s House,” “God Will Take Care of You,” “Worship the Lord,” and “Let Jesus Love You.” Hawkins launched the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar in 1979 as an annual gathering for professional and aspiring singers and musicians to congregate for classes in vocal technique, songwriting, the business side of music, and other matters. Each conference closed with a live recording session that produced over a dozen album releases over the years. Artists such as  Yolanda Adams, John P. Kee, Daryl Coley, and LaShun Pace all got their early start as soloists on the projects. The conference has been dormant since Hawkins’ death in 2018.

Donald Lawrence
Lawrence

In his career, Donald Lawrence has earned 18 GRAMMY® Award nominations and wins for producing The Clark Sisters’ 2007 album, Live – One Last Time, and Tennessee State University’s 2022 project, The Urban Hymnal. As a music director, vocal coach, or producer, he’s collaborated with Stephanie Mills, Mary J. Blige, and En Vogue on the R&B side. In the gospel world, he’s risen to prominence singularly, as well as the leader of the Tri-City Singers, and Donald Lawrence & Company.  In the various pairings, he has placed 22 songs on the Billboard Gospel Airplay charts, including eight Top Ten hits and five number one smashes such as “Encourage Yourself,” “The Blessing of Abraham,” and the gold-certified single, “Deliver Me (This Is My Exodus).” Lawrence’s name is synonymous with choir music. From 2007-2013, he served as host for Verizon Wireless’ How Sweet the Sound choir talent competition in television commercials and on the road. In addition, Lawrence has either composed or produced classic songs on artists such as Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Faith Evans, Lalah Hathaway, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Bebe Winans, and even Hezekiah Walker’s No. 1 hit, “Souled Out.”

For more information or to register, visit: https://musicandartsglobal.com

– From a media release

Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin win multiple trophies at 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Maverick City album cover
Tennessee State University Marching Band album cover

Congratulations are in order for Maverick City Music and Kirk Franklin. The collective took home a trio of Grammys for Best Gospel Performance/Song (“Kingdom”), Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song (“Fear Is Not My Future”), and Best Gospel Album (Kingdom Book One Deluxe). Additionally, Maverick City Music garnered a win in the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album category for Breathe.

Tennessee State University Marching Band emerged as winner in the Best Roots Gospel Album category for The Urban Hymnal.

The 2023 Grammy Awards took place Sunday, February 5. See the complete winner’s list here.

Brent Jones to serve as artist-in-residence at Stanford

(Stanford, CA) Riding high on the success of his smash hit single “Nothing Else Matters (INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING, PRAISE HIM)”, Billboard #1 Most Added Song in the Country, Music Educator and award-winning gospel artist Brent Jones will serve as artist-in-residence at Stanford University starting February 8, 2023.  

Presented by the Department of Music & the Office for Religious & Spiritual Life, in collaboration with Cardinal Calypso, African & African-American Studies, Black Community Services Center, and the Stanford Gospel Choir, Grammy and Stellar Award winner Brent Jones is one of gospel music’s preeminent recording artists whose critically-acclaimed new album Nothing Else Matters was recently named one of the “Best Albums of 2022” by the prestigious Journal of Gospel Music.

“With my song’s movie debut last month on the Hallmark Channel, our sold-out European tour of Switzerland & Italy over the holidays, to the recent launch of my new radio show (The Brent Jones Show) on Power 88.1 FM, Las Vegas’ top-ranked urban station, what an awesome year it’s been already!” Jones says.

“I am always excited to share my musical gifts beyond the four walls of the church so what an honor to serve in residence at iconic Stanford University, one of the top universities in the world!”

For more information on the workshops and performance, visit https://music.stanford.edu/upcoming-events

Todd Dulaney & Isabel Davis to host sixth SOAR Awards

ROCKFORD, IL: The Stellar Gospel Music Award winning online radio station, SOAR Radio, has announced the sixth annual SOAR Awards television taping that takes place on Monday, March 6, 2023, at 7 PM at The Coronado Performing Arts Center, 314 N. Main Street, Rockford, IL. The star-studded program, which will be taped for future television broadcast, will feature performances honoring pioneers from all genres of gospel music. The multi-award-winning recording artists Todd Dulaney and Isabel Davis will serve as co-hosts.

Artist/Producer Donald Lawrence is one of the most celebrated names in the gospel genre with 15 GRAMMY® Award nominations and a win for producing The Clark Sisters’ Live – One Last Time in the category of Best Traditional Gospel Album. As an artist and choir leader, he’s charted with 22 songs, including five Billboard No. 1 hits such as “The Blessing of Abraham” and the RIAA gold-certified track, “Deliver Me (This is My Exodus).” He will receive a Legend Award.

Singer/Actress Kierra Sheard Kelly is one of the most popular artists of the millennial generation with No. 1 hits such as her collaboration with GEI on “Hang On” and her duet of “Something Has to Break” with her mother, Karen Clark Sheard. She also owns the Eleven60 designer clothing line that targets the “professional curvy woman.” Another shining star is Jekalyn Carr who has earned six Billboard No. 1 singles over the last decade with power hits such as “You’re Bigger” and “You Will Win.” Aside from singing, she’s written many of her hit songs such as “Changing Your Story” and “You Will Win.” The enterprising artist also has a line of skincare products and fragrances, Jekalyn Beauty. Kelly and Carr will both receive the Industry Impact Award.

Dr. Holly Carter is the President and CEO of Relevé Entertainment, a multifaceted firm specializing in talent management, brand development, and television/film production. After years of casting actors on shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air and 7th Heaven, she founded The Merge Summit in 2009. The annual event is one of the largest education events for people of faith in the entertainment world. Through her company, she created Oxygen’s hit reality series Preachers of LAPreachers of Detroit, and Preachers of Atlanta. She was integral to bringing The Lifetime Channel’s hit film The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel to life. It was the highest rated original movie of 2020 with a 3+ million audience on premiere night and 11+ million debut week streams. She has produced other programs for the OWN Network, BET, and VH1. Dr. Carter is also chair of the Freedom of Spirit, an outreach ministry founded over 35 years ago by her parents Rev. Billy and Mrs. Ruth Watkins to serve the homeless and less fortunate in Los Angeles. She also holds a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Southern California School of Ministry. She will receive the Luminary Award.

This evening will also boast dynamic performances or appearances by a who’s who of mainstream and inspirational music with KeKe Wyatt, Le’Andria Johnson, Bryan Andrew Wilson, The Clark Sisters, Darrel Walls, Kelontae Gavin, Tasha Page Lockhart, Deon Kipping, Aldren McCullar, Otis Kemp, Tim Bowman, SEMAJE, Randy Weston, Jovonta Patton, and others. Phillip Feaster, an accomplished musician, and producer known for his work with Fred Hammond and VaShawn Mitchell, will serve as the music director.  

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com or https://coronadopac.org/events/soar-awards  

Flyer for Sixth SOAR Awards

Singing policeman Mervin Mayo releases Christmas tune and video

Singing policeman Mervin Mayo

The last two years have been a whirlwind for Richmond, Virginia policeman, Mervin Mayo, who became a viral sensation when his impromptu church rehearsal of a Marvin Sapp song garnered over a million Facebook views in 2020. The surprise fete also earned him coverage on CNN’s Headline News channel and a record deal with Tyscot Records. Earlier this year, he dropped “The Best Friend” which has already amassed a million digital streams, and now he’s heralding an original holiday song, “Christmas Time is Here” (Mervin Mayo / God’s Glory / Tyscot).

On the romantic ballad, Mayo celebrates both the sacred and secular aspects of the holiday season. His robust tenor bounces off an uplifting suite of strings, piano, and a soft backing choir. Producer Jeremy James (who’s worked with a variety of artists ranging from The Clark Sisters to Mali Music) combines the perfect balance of urban condiments with the bells and whistles that usually accompany yuletide tracks. It’s a welcome addition to the urban canon of seasonal melodies such as Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” and The Jackson 5’s “Give Love on Christmas Day.”  

Music has always been a solace for Mayo who was raised by a single mother in Richmond’s tough Creighton Court housing projects where killings were regular happenings. His father was a heroin addict who was in and out of jail most of his life. “When I look back, I grew up in the wild wild West, but I didn’t know it was,” he says. A now-retired police officer, Curtis Simmons, became a role model to Mayo as a teenager and inspired him to become a policeman, a gig he’s held since 2005. “I said if I ever become a police officer, I want to do for others what he did for me,” he says. 

Throughout his life, Mayo has sung for fun. He grew up singing in church. As an adult he sang with the regional R&B group, CHARM  (Cool, Handsome, Attractive, Romantic, Men), and then later with the gospel group, CHANGED. In 2020, he was at his church singing Marvin Sapp’s “The Best in Me” and someone posted it on Facebook. In days, the video had gone viral, and the post eventually garnered a million views. A Tyscot Records exec spotted him and signed him up. 

Now, Mayo has a larger platform to share his music and to also spread the word that there are more good police than bad. “People want to think police are trigger-happy,” he says. “The last thing a police officer wants to do is shoot somebody because if you shoot somebody your career is done forever. That’s not what the average policeman wants. They just want to make it home.”

– From a media release

Dr. Earl Bynum walks away from horrifying car crash

Dr. Earl Bynum seated at piano

Chesapeake, VA  —  Dr. Earl Bynum is a Stellar award-winning singer, songwriter, and choir director who has a syndicated radio show, “On Stage With Earl Bynum” and a new television show of the same name.  He wears many hats as a record label executive of Lrae Entertainment and the Executive Director of Music, Worship, and Arts at The Mount in Chesapeake, VA.  But we sometimes forget that high-profile individuals like Dr. Bynum also go through life daily as we all do.  With that comes tests and trials, journeys with family and friends, and private moments that can instantly change our lives. Dr. Bynum’s life was almost tragically changed in the blink of an eye last week while driving on a Virginia highway.  

Dr. Bynum shares the account of this terrible car accident that could have turned tragic.  

“I was on Interstate 64 in heavy traffic, and a truck pulled out too slowly into the fast traffic. Everyone had to swerve to avoid hitting each other. The car behind me swerved to my right to avoid hitting me, so I couldn’t go to the right or left because of a barrier. The vehicle in front of me came to a complete stop. I had no place to go but to directly crash into the back of the jeep in front of me at high speed.”

Bynum continues, “My entire car nearly folded in half with the hood completely bending in half.  However, surprisingly, no glass broke, nor did my airbag deploy.  It was as if the heavenly Father lifted me and covered me at that moment.” 

Bynum was able to get out of his car and walk around without any injury whatsoever. Miraculously, no other person involved in the horrifying crash suffered any harm. Bynum’s vehicle suffered extensive damage, but God completely protected him.

We often take for granted small things like driving a car and arriving at our destination safely. For Dr. Bynum, this commute is a miracle to share. He offers this as a testimony and proof to those who may question God’s hand of protection for us and His presence among us.  

Dr. Bynum encourages us to remember that “He Is JEHOVAH NISSI – He protected the Israelites, He protected David, He protected ME, and He will protect You!”