SGCompany & Angels of Harlem Gospel Choir in concert

Monday the 14th of december 2009 19.30 in Stavanger Konserthus

Buy tickets at www.billettservice.no or at Stavanger Konserthus.

 

SGC visit to Chicago Easter 2009

In April 2009, Stavanger Gospel Company made its first ever visit to Chicago – The Windy City. 10 fabulous days of worshipping, sightseeing, shopping and fellowship brought us closer together, and strengthened our relationships with each other and with Light of Love, who hosted our visit.

 

A group of 40 singers, 4 musicians and around 50 spouses, kids, grandparents, nieces, aunts, uncles and friends met up in Copenhagen for the long flight across the Atlantic. The youngest member of the group was barely 2 weeks old, the eldest close to 80. Arriving in Chicago on Saturday April 4th in the afternoon, we were happy to get to our hotel in the southside suburb of Alsip. A few hours of coveted sleep, and then up at 4 am, in order to make it to our first singing engagement in Lansing, Michigan on Sunday morning. Jet lagged? Sure! Excited to be there, singing in these churches that are so close to our heart? Absolutely!

 

{mosimage}After the service (and a lovely turkey lunch, supplied by church members) we headed down to South Bend, Indiana for an afternoon service. The contrast between the affluent neighborhoods of Michigan and the trailer parks we drove near to get to the second church was an eye opener to many of us, epitomizing the great disparities within the US, between those who have and those who don’t. In social-democratic Norway, this difference is not as visible and apparent, and caused many of us to reflect on how lucky we are, living where we do. Throughout the week, the presence of the US recession became clear, in how pastors and radio talkshow hosts seemed to have the Illinois unemployment figures at their fingertips, while emphasizing God’s providence and love. We came to realize that even when selling our CDs for 10 dollars (which in Norway would be a huge bargain), in some churches we found it hard to find buyers, since to many this represented a week’s worth of lunch money.

 

Time was set aside for sightseeing and shopping as well. On Monday, we took our tour buses into the center of Chicago, photographing the skyline in gale force winds (fortunately the snow from the previous day had melted away, never to return). We got to visit the Sears Tower and Navy Pier, but also the site of the Pilgrim Church – the cradle of gospel music – which had succumbed in a fire a couple of years ago. Ensuring that the trade figures for the State of Illinois show an uplift in April was accomplished through visits to Macy’s and numerous shopping malls, and SGC soprano and alto hands and feet have never been as manicured and pedicured as after this Chicago tour.

 

On Wednesday evening we did a concert in a huge church called House of Hope. We felt like pop stars as we waited backstage, to be escorted to our assigned seats, and then to the podium to sing our 2 songs. When we were asked to do a third number, we felt very privileged, despite the butterflies in our tummies when looking out at 10 000 seats. While not filled to capacity this evening, it was still a larger audience than most of us had faced before. When selling CDs afterwards, a well-dressed man came and stood next to us. He was around 2 meters tall and 1 meter across, and not a gram of fat on him. He stood near our table – as inconspicuous as a small mountain can be – and finally we found courage to ask whether we might help him? “I’m your security, Mam” was the reply, in a bass voice that would make Aril (our Director) drool. So for the first time in SGC history, we had our own bodyguard! Of course, this was probably also the only time in SGC history where there was even a remote possibility we needed one, given that concerts in Randaberg seldom end with someone robbing the CD sale money.

 

On Friday, we did a concert in the Salvation Army in Oak Brook, which felt a bit like being “home”, despite the fact that the service was in English and Spanish, rather than Norwegian. Here we got to sing a lot of our songs, and the coolest part was the overheads being shown while we sang, which were our lyrics translated into Spanish! Didn’t we feel like the international choir on tour! In every church we visited, the welcome and kindness we received was overwhelming, and the response to our songs and testimonies ever so kind. During the week, we did 4-5 radio interviews with various stations, and got quite a bit of play time, especially for “Revive us”, “Medley” and “Rejoice”. As one talk show host said: “My audience is driving to a dead end job that they hate, but need to pay their mortgage. The least I can do is play some upbeat music for them in the morning, to encourage them and lift their spirits”. On returning home, we got a mail from one of the other hosts, Marcella Jones, saying “I just wanted to tell you that I have gotten nothing but a great response on the Stavanger Gospel Compay. I have put their music in heavy rotation.” So perhaps we’ll soon have a proper fan base in Chicago!

 

On Sunday, the day we were set to leave, we were in for a singing marathon. Leaving the hotel at 7 am, we headed to Prayer and Faith Outreach Ministries, to perform at 2 services; one at 8 am and the other at 11 am. This was a proper “Pentecostal” congregation in terms of its service structure, and with Light of Love leading the worship section, we feared the roof might lift. Seldom have we sung better than we did there, I think particularly “Don’t be afraid” comes to mind as a once in a lifetime rendition. In such a neighborhood, with so much to fear, it is impossible to be unmoved when you see the tears of the audience.

 

{mosimage}After the second performance, we rushed to the buses to head to yet another service, this time in the Catholic church Saint Sabina, led by the renowned minister and social activist Father Michael Pfleger. This gig had come about by chance – or perhaps divination – by one of our singers running into Saint Sabina’s minister of music in a downtown shop. As it turned out, it became in many ways the highlight and symbol of our trip. We arrived as the sermon was starting, and for those of us sitting behind the organ, we just couldn’t believe it was a white man preaching – he sounded so black! Also, it was as far from our preconceptions of a catholic service as it is possible to come! A multicultural, multi-ethnic congregation, the church filled to capacity, with a great choir – why did they need us, exactly? As we rose to sing, in this magnificent building with incredible acoustic, we were filled with humility. We performed our songs and were so grateful for the way in which the congregation {mosimage}embraced us and responded to our songs. We were then joined on stage by the St Sabina’s own choir, and asked to do some worship songs together. As it happened, the white SGC singers were all dressed in black, and the (mostly) African-American St Sabina singers were all dressed in white. What a perfect symbol of the black-and-white project which “It’s Amazing” represents, and which brought us to Chicago to begin with! Father Pfleger’s remark on our return was to the same effect: “Your visit to us was a great blessing, I only wish we had more time to visit and share each others stories. I had made the same remark to staff here, about the White and Black uniforms of both Choirs. How fitting on Easter Sunday for this display of the way God wants us to come together!  Hope you can visit us again.”

 

Throughout the week, Light of Love – and especially Anita – did all they could to make us feel welcome, and take care of us. Picking us up for radio interviews, smoothing the path, enabling us to get into churches to perform where we would otherwise not have been invited – in all ways they made our stay ever so much more enjoyable and worthwhile. On the Sunday lunch before we left for the airport again, Aril remarked that it is our dearest wish that our friendship and cooperation with Light of Love continues, and that we’ll meet again soon. This wish was certainly shared by all the choir members.

 

So what do we remember the most from our trip to Chicago? The skyscrapers? The deep pan pizza? The bodyguard? No, I think most of all the fellowship, the response, the inspiration, the people. Being in the place where gospel music started, bringing our own touch to it, learning and sharing. We hope some day we’ll return.

Norway…in the House!

The Stavanger Gospel Company of Norway performs in Chicago

A longtime gospel music enthusiast, Norwegian guitarist and arranger Aril Schold had also built a fair amount of expertise in its performance working with artists such as Richard Smallwood and Andrae Crouch during their various European tours. Schold also accompanied Norwegian gospel choirs traveling to the U.S.

 

Eleven years ago, Schold, who hails from Stavanger, Norway’s fourth largest city and nestled on its west coast, wanted to fill the choral chasm between the country’s energetic youth choirs and its more staid adult symphonic groups. He and a friend decided to organize a gospel choir…………………..

 

“I love the music and the life around gospel music,” said Schold. “And of course I love the Lord, so I really wanted to start a gospel choir.”

A newspaper advertisement announcing Stavanger Gospel Company’s formation enticed 30 members to attend its first rehearsal, held at a Salvation Army church. The group doubled in size by the second rehearsal and by the third gathering, 110 singers packed the house. Henceforward, Schold set a limit of not more than 60 persons in the choir.

“In the beginning, we were singing songs by Kirk Franklin, Kurt Carr, Donald Lawrence, Israel Houghton, Ricky Dillard, Lamar Campbell and O’Landa Draper,” Schold recalled. While he continues to scour the latest gospel CDs for new songs and stylistic ideas, Schold now supplements the company’s catalog with original compositions written in the black gospel tradition.

Since its founding, the Stavanger Gospel Company has appeared on Norway national radio and completed successful tours of New York and London.

While this is the choir’s second trip to the U.S., it is its first to Chicago. The visit – indeed their first commercial CD – benefited from a rerouted airplane flight two years ago, which brought Schold together with Chicago artists Anita Holmes and Light of Love.

Schold recalled: “I was starting on this [CD] project, and my biggest wish was to get African Americans involved in it, because I respect them and this is their music. And I knew one white guy could not do this all by himself!”

It turned out that at the same time, Anita Holmes and Light of Love were on a tour of Norway and Sweden. “Our flight was supposed to go through Oslo,” Holmes said, “But the flight was sold out, and so they rerouted us through Stavanger.”

Light of Love was asked to perform at a church while delayed in Stavanger, and they agreed. A friend of Schold’s attended the concert and alerted the choir director to their presence. “When I found out that Light of Love had no plans for the next day,» Schold said, “I was like, ‘Oh…they’re not doing anything? Then I will bother them!’” He invited Holmes and Light of Love to meet the choir and listen to their songs. “We had a really nice session with the group and their musicians, and we had about two hours to sing together and work together.”

After the session, the two groups agreed to keep in touch.

“My keyboard player told me, ‘You’ve heard this before. Everybody tells you, «I’ll call you!»’” But sure enough, Holmes called Schold and they discussed the Stavanger Gospel Company’s plans for the CD. “She asked why we sing gospel music and all about the project, and by the end of the conversation, she said Light of Love would help us produce the CD.”

It’s Amazing by the Stavanger Gospel Company was released last November. It earned the group a national television appearance.

While in Chicago this week, the Stavanger Gospel Company performed a Good Friday concert for the Salvation Army in Oak Brook, visited New Life Covenant Oakwood (Light of Love’s home church), met Bishop Larry Trotter and Ricky Dillard, and traveled to the remains of historic Pilgrim Baptist Church.

The group will perform April 12, 2009 for the Easter Sunday service at Prayer and Faith Outreach Ministries, 944 West 103rd Street in Chicago, Illinois, where Rev. William Hudson is Pastor.

Next year, the Stavanger Gospel Company plans to visit Hungary, and hopes to tour Africa in 2011. Meanwhile, they would like to come back to the U.S. to perform at African American churches.

Schold said, “We want to bring the message but also to get the inspiration.”

 

Bob Marovich

 

You can read more from the theblackgospelblog here.

The black & white project

Stavanger Gospel Company is now putting the finishing touches on its new CD. In August 2007, an exciting cooperation began between SGC and Light of Love, a gospel group from Chicago. Light of Love consists of five preeminent African American gospel singers, who for the past decade have worked with major artists such as TOTO, Bobby McFerrin, George Michael, and most of the first tier American gospel artists. SGC has been given a unique opportunity to recreate this culture in Norway, producing a CD in which this group has been heavily involved.

 

The CD has been recorded partly in Chicago and partly in Stavanger. During the past year, Light of Love has made four trips to Stavanger to prepare for the recording together with the choir. The CD will contain 9 songs composed by choir members and 3 traditional gospel songs. The meeting of two different cultures – the African American and the Norwegian – will be central both in the record and in the concerts following the release.

 

{mosimage}The likelihood of a white gospel choir from Stavanger having the opportunity to work with some of the best African American gospel singers and musicians is truly minimal. Regardless; this is what has happened. The CD is now ready for release.

 

The CD will be promoted around the world. This work is being done by some of the best and most experienced people in the business in the US. They are convinced that this product is viable both in the US and a number of other countries. The plan is to release the CD around the world in January 2009.

 

As a choir associated with the Salvation Army we want to focus on a message that we feel is important. The CD is meant as a tool in this context

IT’S AMAZING ALBUM

STAVANGER GOSPEL COMPANY has worked on the CD project IT’S AMAZING for more than a year. The CD is a collaborative project between the choir and top level US gospel artists. The CD contains twelve songs, of which nine have been written by choir members. It has been recorded and mixed both in Norway and the US.