March the 18th-20th 2011 Stavanger Gospel Company once again had the pleasure of hosting several international guests and artists for THIS IS GOSPEL 2011 in Stavanger, Norway. Award-winning gospel artists Donnie McClurkin and Dorinda Clark-Cole visited Stavanger to inspire, teach and give the people in Scandinavia a close meeting with the lifestyle of American gospel music. The amazing line up of artists and guests also included the American group Light of Love, the anointed singer and worship leader Cinque Cullar, the Swedish gospel/soul artist Samuel Ljungblahd, Chicago-based conductor Tyrone Block, Pastor John Hannah, Norwegian vocal coach Marie P. Frostlid and 20 American top level gospel musicians, background vocals, technicians, providers and coordinators. They were all invited to join Stavanger Gospel Company (SGC) for the second THIS IS GOSPEL-festival, and we had great expectations.The good connection between Americans and Norwegians that were established during TIG 2010 has really been a blessing for this festival, and once again we shared some amazing days together both on and off stage. We also established some new relationships; with Pastor John Hannah who took the time to visit us (this was actually the first time he was preaching outside America, we are humbled), with Samuel Ljungblahd who is an extraordinary person and singer/musician, and with several breathtaking musicians, awesome crew members and other people related to guests and artists. We really love them all, and are looking forward to keep in touch with them in the future.
The first Americans arrived at Sola airport at Tuesday March the 15th. We socialized, did a lot of organizing and preparations for the week. Pastor John Hannah arrived at Wednesday, and got the chance to do some sightseeing in the region, in addition to just hanging out and getting to know each other. We had a wonderful time! At Thursday the entire group of artists, musicians and other crew members arrived, including Donnie McClurkin and Dorinda Clark-Cole. Our good friends and co-organizers from the fantastic gospel group Light of Love has been huge contributors both in the making of Stavanger Gospel Company’s album “It’s Amazing” and to the birth of THIS IS GOSPEL, and they were naturally coming along for this years festival as well. In their luggage they brought fresh copies of their album “Live in Norway”, which was actually recorded during TIG 2010. On Thursday afternoon Light of Love had a performance/release at the public library in Stavanger. Lots of people joined in to listen. These siblings truly are an amazing group of people and singers!
During Thursday the artists did lots of interviews with newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and magazines together with Aril Schøld (director Stavanger Gospel Company).
Thursday evening all the people involved in the festival (Stavanger Gospel Company, artists, crew etc.) got together for a “kick off”. We had a tasty hot meal (Chinese food!), Aril Schøld shared the vision and the history behind THIS IS GOSPEL, Pastor John Hannah shared a touching message, we sang together and prayed for the festival. It was a evening where everybody went home uplifted in the spirit, and with great expectations for the weekend.
Friday the 18th of March, people from all over Norway and Scandinavia arrived at IMI Forum, and found a seat at the venue. The first part of the program was a rehearsal with the WORKSHOP CHOIR, with directors such as Tyrone Block, Kimberly Holmes and Cinque Cullar leading the enthusiastic mass choir. Directors and participants were all giving their very best, and the tone was set for the weekend!
At 7:30 pm we had a break, before the evening-program started: PASTOR JOHN HANNAH WORSHIP. This became an amazing meeting with the African American style of worship and ministry, through a mixture of singing and spoken words… you never knew what was going to happen the next minute. Pastor John Hannah is so full of energy, so equipped as a communicator and so focused in faith… We were blown away! The evening was life changing for many of us, and was certainly a real authentic experience of how the African Americans express their faith. And we did not only watch the Americans “do their thing”, we were taking part of it! That is the whole idea behind THIS IS GOSPEL; it’s more than music, it’s a lifestyle, and through this weekend we can be a part of that. Also, this was a unique experience both culturally and musically. It was inspiring to see that the world famous artists McClurkin and Clark-Cole – all dressed up – sat down at the first row to take part of this evening, although they didn’t have any obligations in the program. Through that we can understand that also our American friends are here to receive and be inspired themselves, and it tells us that the chance to hear Pastor John Hannah is something they wouldn’t miss. We will never forget when Pastor John Hannah suddenly started to pass the microphone from one amazing singer to the next, making them sing from their hearts, with tears in their eyes. “What do you sing in the cave?”, Pastor John Hannah asked. And then Donnie McClurkin, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Cinque Cullar and others sang from their hearts – songs that made us all fight with tears. It was a moment we will never forget!
Saturday began with the Norwegian vocal coach Marie P. Frostlid, who gave the workshop choir lots of useful and practical advices for reaching their full potential as singers. She explained and demonstrated how the Americans are able to produce such high volume and pitch over a long period of singing. For most Scandinavians, this is a big challenge. But it’s obvious that people want to learn how to improve as singers, and although it was just 10am in the morning, the vocal coach had their full attention.
Then we moved forward to CLASSES, were people could choose between different subjects, such as songwriting, choir leadership, lead vocal, vocal projection and the music business. All classes were instructed by the international artists. It’s really unique to get the opportunity to sit down with Donnie McClurkin, sharing his experience with the music industry, or being challenged to show your vocal skills on the same stage as Dorinda Clark-Cole. The classes were a huge success, and this part of the festival is something that we’re definitely going to keep developing to make it even better, it’s a winner!
For the musicians, we had a BAND WORKSHOP, where our top range American musicians did a session together, before we split up into instrument-based group instruction. We could spend weeks with these guys, there is so much to learn! They gave us true inspiration to go home and practice and also to keep using our musical talent for a higher purpose.
At 1:30 pm we all gathered for the SUPER PANEL DEBATE, with all the artists involved. The debate was led by an englishman, Nik Pears. He runs the UK company Dependant, working with recording, publishing and musicians/singers for sessions… Depentant is also representing Stavanger Gospel Company in the UK. The panel debate were mainly focusing on songwriting in the gospel genre, and the different artists shared their thoughts and experiences related to this. It was very interesting to hear the panel debate the cultural differences in America and Scandinavia. The swedish artist Samuel Ljungblahd shared some personal thoughts about how difficult it can be to be an gospel artist in the Scandinavian countries, he was really honest, and that made an impression on all of us. Nik Pears led the debate over to how songs are born, and this panel had a lot of experience to share. This was a great way for the participants to get to know the artists a little better. After a break, it was time for another session with the workshop choir, and now both Donnie McClurkin and Dorinda Clark-Cole were taking part of this, learning us new songs in the speed of light… Lots of fun!
Saturday evening came, and it was time for THE GREAT GOSPEL CONCERT. We were so proud to present the awesome line up: Donnie McClurkin, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Light of Love, Cinque Cullar, Samuel Ljungblahd, Audrey Mbuyazi (South-Africa), Stavanger Gospel Company and the Workshop Choir. It was an amazing concert! People were dancing all over the venue. Donnie McClurkin finished the evening with a selection from his incredible catalog. The crowd switched between tears, laughter and dancing throughout the evening. Unforgettable!
Sunday was the day of THIS IS GOSPEL – CHURCH. As under TIG 2010, we once again wanted to let the Norwegian and Scandinavian people experience an authentic African American black church- service. This was an open event, free of charge. Many people in the Stavanger-region came this afternoon, and the church was full. Some congregations in Stavanger actually cancelled their ordinary Sunday service to join in on this event! All the artists were participating. After the opening worship led by the Americans, and a couple of great songs performed by Samuel Ljungblahd, Audrey Mbuyazi and Stavanger Gospel Company, Pastor Donnie McClurkin preached the Holy gospel. He shared his heartbreaking testimony of childhood abuse, and then focused on the unconditional love of God, and his own journey towards forgiving those who had ruined big parts of his childhood and youth.
During the worship after his speech, he took the opportunity to bring forward the backing vocalists that had been singing behind the artists the whole weekend, and gave them an opportunity to praise God as lead vocalists with their amazing voices, and blessing the audience with their amazing gifts. Wow! Pastor Donnie McClurkin surprised us all, including his own band and singers, by using this opportunity to encourage and pray for others, instead of doing more of his own songs. Once again we are reminded: THIS IS GOSPEL!
Sunday evening all the people involved during the festival had a wonderful meal at Renaa restaurant (http://www.restaurantrenaa.no/omoss.htm) downtown Stavanger. Monday the 21th we brought our American brothers & sisters to the airport. They all had a safe trip back to the US. Looking back at these wonderful days, our heart gets filled with gratefulness:
Thanks to Donnie McClurkin, Dorinda Clark-Cole and the rest of our American friends for giving everything and for being so humble and wonderful to both the Stavanger Gospel Company and the rest of the Norwegian and Scandinavian people. Thanks to Samuel Ljungblahd, Marie P. Frostlid and Audrey Mbuyazi for your great contribution. A special thanks to Anita Holmes (Light of Love) and Taylorr Taylor for helping us organize it. Thanks to our wonderful partners; SR-Bank, MDE, TransOcean, PAP, Myhregaarden hotel, Bavaria, WestCom, Stavanger kommune and Rogaland Fylkeskommune for making this possible.
To everyone who took part of THIS IS GOSPEL 2011. Thanks! We’ll see you all again!
Most of all thanks to the Lord for making it possible. We believe that THIS IS GOSPEL is a part of His plans for the future.
Stay tuned for the next THIS IS GOSPEL-happening – March 9th-11 2012. Don’t miss it!