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"Gospel songs are the songs of hope" - Mahalia Jackson

posted Oct 16, 2010, 11:09 AM by Unknown user

Thomas A. Dorsey is widely regarded as “the father of modern gospel music.”  He wrote Precious Lord, Take My Hand in Chicago after his first wife died in childbirth in 1932.  He then went on to write more than 800 songs, helping to create this “new” genre that emphasized movement and improvisation, emotional evolvement and personalized expression. 

But Catholic gospel music starts at St. Joseph’s in Cincinnati a few decades later with Fr. Clarence Rufus J. Rivers.  He composed music used in St. Louis at the first official English mass after the Second Vatican Council in 1964.  Ken Canedo wrote for Oregon Catholic Press “The repertoire was limited to a few English chants and a smattering of Protestant hymns.  Electricity filled the air when Fr. Rivers stepped up to the microphone and sang.  Blues notes! Spiritual song structure!  Idiomatic English lyrics!  Passion in vocal interpretation!  This was largely unheard of in the Roman Liturgy.  The American Catholic Church would never be the same.”


Donna Shears, who directs the 100-member Archdiocesan Gospel Choir of Hartford, CT says “It’s the kind of music that speaks to our hearts.”


My Help (Cometh from the Lord) is Psalm 121, which was also today’s Responsorial Psalm.  This arrangement is by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, located less than three miles away on Smith Street!  This 285-voice all volunteer choir has recorded three videos, three DVDs and numerous albums, winning six Grammy Awards!  Their new holiday CD A Brooklyn Tabernacle Christmas was just released October 5.  For more info visit www.brooklyntabernacle.org/choir/