- Faith & Family
The Harlem Gospel Choir has been exposing the world to Black culture and the music of the Black church since January 1986 when its founder, Allen Bailey, 72, says he was first inspired to take the Choir’s ministry beyond the doors of Refuge Temple in Harlem. And just in case you’ve never heard them “make a joyful noise” the Choir will be in South Florida during Black History Month for one night only at the Miramar Cultural Center.
“We are just trying to bring nations and people together,” Bailey said. “Everybody is somebody in our ensemble and we have members that come from 15 different churches in the Harlem community. And we’re humbled by the fact that for 27 years, we had taken our music to 49 states and 143 countries, including the the People’s Republic of China. People want us to understand our music and our mission — they want to see and experience the Black spiritual tradition for themselves, even if they don’t understand English.”
The Harlem Gospel Choir has been showcased with a veritable who’s who of the entertainment industry — from Elton John and Harry Belafonte to Stephanie Mills, Bono and U2. But Bailey says what really keeps them going is their ability to “rock for Jesus and roll for the Lord.”
Message in the music
While their music remains faith based, Bailey says they have continued to expand their repertoire.
“Harlem is the Black entertainment capital of the world so we have incorporated into our performances not just spirituals and traditional hymns, but also jazz gospel gospel rap,” Bailey added. We don’t proselytize when we go on stage — that’s not our objective. We just deliver the emotion we feel and try to share the beauty of the Black culture. Gospel music is about a people who have suffered and you don’t have to be Black or Christian to understand suffering. That’s why Catholics, Muslims, Koreans, Chinese — you name it — don’t feel threatened when we perform. We were founded on the principles of Dr. King and he was all about bringing a message of unity to every city and country that we visit.”
When asked about the relevance of Black History Month, Bailey responded quickly.
“Our choir has members that have faced addictions, unemployment and family tragedies but our faith has sustained us,” he said. “Black History Month is all about sharing that message — that testimony. Our musical director, Leon Brown and our 45 members [18 to 75-years-old] understand the reason why we sing. For us every month is Black History Month.”
Harlem Gospel Choir will be featured at the Miramar Cultural Center on Feb. 9th at 8 p.m. Go to www.miramarculturalcenter.org for more information.
By D. Kevin McNeir