In the quarter-century since its founding, the 60-member Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir has become internationally renowned as one of the premier choirs in the gospel field. Its performances outside the San Francisco Bay Area are relatively rare, however, which makes the release of the OIGC's new CD, Hear My Prayer
, all the more reason for celebration.
Hear My Prayer, the OIGC's fifth album to date, reflects the group's remarkable eclecticism. It's like attending an Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir concert," says Terrance Kelly, the choir's director and artistic visionary. There's a little contemporary, a little praise, a little traditional, and a couple spirituals. These are songs that a church choir can sing and bless the congregation with."
Kelly himself composed the praise songs Glory, Honor" and Blessings, Honor," while present and past choir members and their associates contributed several other numbers ("Still Standing," All That I Need"). The choir also performs Kelly's arrangements of gospel standards ("Give Me a Clean Heart," There's Something About That Name") and spirituals ("Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit," Hear My Prayer").
Soloists include Marcellus Kidd, Carmen Jones, Mary Ford, Carl Mosby Jr., Keziah Buggs, Sharon Henderson, Theresa Priester, and director Kelly. Music director Carl Wheeler plays keyboards on the new CD, along with Ben Heveroh, Louis Burrell, and Tina Bryant. Other musicians are alto saxophonist Kevin Moore; guitarist Cam Perridge; bassists David Belove, Joel Smith, and Scott Thompson; drummer Joel Smith; and Raymond Smith on tambourine.
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir was founded by Rhythmic Concepts, Inc. (now called Living Jazz, Inc.) in 1986. Its inspiration came as a result of a gospel music workshop led by Terrance Kelly, at RCI's Jazz Camp West, and by earlier workshops led by Terrance's mother, Faye Kelly, a prominent choir director and arranger. Terrance took over teaching the Jazz Camp gospel choir following his mother's death in 1981.
The wide-ranging interests of his father, the late pianist and organist Ed Kelly, included jazz, blues, gospel, and classical music and were a major influence on Terrance's musical development. Noted for his long associations with jazz violinist Michael White and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and for recordings with Art Pepper and Sonny Stitt, the elder Kelly also taught music at Laney College and worked as a church organist in Oakland; he was the OIGC's original organist.
Terrance, 48, developed an appreciation for opera as a teenager and studied voice at college (Texas Southern and Holy Names universities) as well as privately. His mastery of both vocal disciplines aided him greatly in quickly transforming the OIGC from a bunch of novices into a first-class singing ensemble.
The choir's debut album, The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Live!, was recorded at Oakland's Calvin Simmons Theater in 1990 and included a guest appearance by Pharoah Sanders. Three more CDs followed: We've Come a Mighty Long Way in 1996, Rejoice! Christmas with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir in 2000, and Great Day: A Cappella Negro Spirituals in 2003. The OIGC's rich harmonies also have graced Linda Ronstadt's Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind (1989), Tramaine Hawkins' Grammy-winning Live (1990), Michael Kaeshammer's Too Legit to Quit (1991), and recordings by Peter Gabriel, the Kronos Quartet, and others.
OIGC plans a CD release concert at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Sunday 10/2 at 7:30 pm (doors open at 6:30). Tickets are $20.50 in advance, $22.50 at the door. Donor tickets with a premium (special seating, photo with Terrance Kelly, signed CD) will also be available at a higher price on the OIGC web site through 9/30.
Open choir rehearsals, scheduled for Monday 9/19 and Monday 10/10, provide a behind-the-scenes look (and listen) for interested members of the public. They take place at the Imani Community Church, 3300 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm, with a suggested donation of $10 (proceeds go toward the OIGC scholarship account).
The choir's much-anticipated annual holiday concert happens this year at Oakland's Paramount Theatre on Saturday 12/3. Tickets go on sale Tuesday 10/18 at the Paramount box office.