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.”