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Jun 22, 2014 - DR. JOEY CRUTCHER CLOSES JUNETEENTH WITH GOSPEL- MUSIC CELEBRATION

 

           Dr. Joey Crutcher—accompanied by Leon Rollerson—is planning a big finish for his gospel-music show this Sunday. In fact, he wants nothing less than to turn the Jazz Depot into one big church.

            “We have a saying in the Gospel Music Workshop of America, and in my church, a little phrase: `Let the whole church sing.'” he explains. “That means that everybody in the whole building becomes one big choir. I don't care what their ethnic background is, their denomination, what their nationality is – there's always one song that everybody knows. We always try to find that song and let the whole church sing.”

            A gospel number, for instance, like “Oh Happy Day,” which became a million-selling single for the Edwin Hawkins Singers back in 1969, climbing into the Top Five of the Billboard magazine pop charts.

            “That's the one we're going to go out on Sunday,” says Crutcher. “It's going to be a hand-clapper, not real fast, but upbeat enough to where you can do some good one and three [beat] clapping. And we'll syncopate it in all kinds of ways. I think it's in 4/4 time, and we'll do something on every one of those beats.”

            Crutcher's show closes out Tulsa's annual Juneteenth festival, held around June 19, the date in 1865 when slaves in the Southwest finally got word that the Civil War had ended and they'd been freed. With that in mind, “Oh Happy Day” seems an especially appropriate song to mark the end of the festivities. 

            There will, of course, be many other gospel numbers, performed by several different acts that include The Heralds of Praise, from Tulsa's New Heights Christian Center, and members of the Gospel Music Workshop of America/Tulsa Chapter, for which Crutcher has been a longtime representative.

            “We've got a variety of artists from the Tulsa area, and we're going to reference things that relate to the African-American experience and Juneteenth, but basically what it's going to be is a lot of good toe-tappin' gospel music,” he says.  “One of the songs we're going to be doing is `Lifter of My Head.' No matter how bad it might seem, you know, Jesus is the lifter of my head. That's a Gospel Music Workshop of America song. Every year, we go to the national [meeting] – this year, we'll be in Atlanta – and most of the music that I do comes from the national convention.”

            For a gospel-music writer, adds Crutcher, the GMWA convention is “like a farmer coming to market.  You bring your music and you market it. You try to sell it to the different local chapters so that they'll go out and do your music. [Gospel stars] Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Bobby Jones – all of those guys came through the Gospel Music Workshop. They got their start there. We sit out there and we listen and think what would be good for our own local churches. That's what it's for, just marketing good gospel music. We'll be doing a lot of that music Sunday.”

            The Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. was founded in 1967 by the Rev. James Cleveland, perhaps the major driving force in modern gospel music, and well-known gospel performer Albertina Walker. Described on its website (www.gmwanational.net) as “a non-profit, interdenominational, interracial, non-sexist oriented, international association of gospel singers and musicians.”

            The mission of these delegates, and the chapters they belong to – including Tulsa's – is “to preserve the heritage of Gospel music in America, while providing a forum for the development of excellence in the presentation of Gospel music. Further, to increase opportunities for the perpetuation of Gospel music throughout other industries, arenas, and the world.”

            “GMWA has about 10 or 12 churches in the Tulsa area, different denominations, that are represented,” adds Crutcher. “We do preaching, and young people's stuff – we have a fine-arts academy for young people, and we teach them the art of gospel music. So we do a lot more than choirs.

            “But,” he says, “the founder, James Cleveland, was a choral director. One of the best in gospel music. So at the end of the day, it's going to be about the choir.”    

            The Juneteenth Gospel Celebration is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street.

            Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.           

            The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 Summer Concert Series.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form. 


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