- Faith & Family
The Miami Mass Choir is back — headlining a concert of holiday favorites as part of the Free Gospel Sundays series this Sunday, Dec. 16th at 4 p.m. — and back in the studio completing the finishing touches on their fourth CD. And if things go according to God’s plans, says founder and director, Rev. Marc Cooper, “we’ll be back on the road again next year.”
Cooper, 41, is well known in Miami, first as an organist at his father’s church, Cooper Temple COGIC, then as the founder of the gospel group Marc Cooper and Friends and most recently as the pastor of a fast-growing church, Upper Room Ministries. He’s also played for some of legends in gospel music. But when he talks about the choir that he both founded and directs, the Miami Miami Mass Choir, one can hear the excitement in his voice.
“We don’t sing the typical church songs that many gospel choirs do,” he said. “We also do the Top 20 songs and even do some four- and five-part harmonies. For the Christmas concert, we’ll be the featured group and that’s pretty special for us. But then, we’ll be joined by some other great, local talent too so we know it’s going to be a wonderful afternoon of praise.”
Joining the Miami Mass Choir will be DNA MusicBoys, R.A.I.N. and S.I.G.N. [Singing in God’s Name] — the local winners of the Arsht Center’s inaugural “New Gospel Talent Search.”
The Miami Mass Choir made its debut in Oct. 2010 as the resident choir for the Arsht Center’s Free Gospel Sundays and has gained a reputation as one of the area’s finest, multicultural gospel choirs — representing over 50 of South Florida’s most talented voices. And you can’t just show up for rehearsal. All of the members must audition.
Changes in the gospel scene
We asked Cooper about the direction of gospel music today. He says that part of the challenge as a director is finding music that fits his choir’s abilities and the needs of the community.
“It starts with great song writing,” he said. “Music in the gospel industry has moved to a Sunday morning format — the songs are relatively simple and easy to pick up. But if you go back in gospel music history, you’ll hear songs that are much more intricately written. That was one of my challenges earlier in my career — I was writing songs that were jazz-based, had a Caribbean vibe or were written for singers and musicians that were very talented. The music was demanding and it just didn’t fit the Sunday morning format.”
Cooper promises to bring selections to the Sunday concert that have a Christmas theme but also fit within the context of the more popular “Sunday morning format.”
“We plan to have a great time and get people into the reason for the season,” he said.
By D. Kevin McNeir