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Memphis Gospel Alliance Extra

February 26, 2010

by Michael Steven Moore

How Sweet

Verizon Wireless has demonstrated its confidence in and appreciation of the rich and strong Gospel Music Community found in the Greater City of Memphis by choosing Memphis as its inaugural market in 2007 for How Sweet the Sound, a Church Choir Competition that celebrates the unique ways that music connects people within their communities.

How Sweet the Sound is a glorious opportunity for Verizon Wireless to build on an overall commitment to connecting people, in this case, through beautiful gospel music.

In the Regional Competition held at FedEx Forum on October 5, area choirs competed in front of a crowd of 6,500 Mid-southerners. Greater Community Temple COGIC Choir won best large choir, audience favorite in the Verizon Wireless V-Cast balloting, and ultimately won the overall 2009 regional competition and represented Memphis in the national event on November 7, 2009 in Detroit, MI.

Verizon Wireless and How Sweet the Sound chose local artist Morris Howard to capture the essence of hope and the spirit of gospel music and thereby recognized the tremendous talent in Memphis not only in music, but through the visual arts. This masterpiece was featured in the Memphis event’s program and was one of the pieces showcased in all eleven tour cities.

Verizon Wireless also uses How Sweet the Sound as a platform to promote its community program HopeLine®. Through its HopeLine phone recycling program, Verizon Wireless provides assistance for families victimized by domestic abuse by collecting and refurbishing no-longer used wireless phones, batteries and accessories from any wireless service provider and donates the proceeds to local domestic violence shelters. Refurbished cell phones are also donated to victims to help during their time of transition.  (In 2009 alone, Tennessee donated over 19,000 phones to the HopeLine program.)

Verizon continues to demonstrate its commitment to Memphis and its efforts to support prevention and promote awareness of domestic violence and presented Morris Howard’s original work of art to the YWCA.

The Honorable Harold Collins, Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware and the Governing Body of our great city showed that they have heard the sound of support through a symphony of deeds in, to, and for our Great Community of Memphis, and on, February 23, paused to honor Verizon Wireless and How Sweet the Sound’s Candace Morgan, District Manager for Verizon Wireless along with Carla McAdory and Angela Anderson, local artist Morris Howard, and GCT Minister of Music is Zacchaeus Bartholomew Hayslett.

Now How Sweet That Sounds!!!

Honor Thy Music

WOW!!!  I learned some black history this past weekend at the Folk Alliance 2010 conference.  If you know my past, you may know me from MegaJam.  If you met me later you know me though Gospel & Christian Showcases or Church. (Praise & Worship) I have spent my life champing the music that I believe in.  This past weekend I was introduced to Music that I must admit that I have never heard of in all of my __ years.  A genre of music that is older than my years on this earth.  A music style rooted in a Pentecostal Denomination founded one year before the Grand Ole Church of God In Christ (of which I am a part).  Ironically it has its origin in the same Azusa Street Revival that Bishop Mason attended prior to founding the COGIC.

Sacred Steel, the musical tradition invented in the New Jersey-based House of God churches in the 1930s. The main instrument in these churches is the Steel Guitar.  (much like the Hammond B3 in the COGIC today)

You may have heard of Robert Randolph, a steel player who started playing in church and now enjoys a measure of popularity for the instrument. The Alliance had showcases and A Sacred Steel Review that featured The Lee Boys, Calvin Cooke, Aubrey Ghent, The Campbell Brothers, Ted Beard, Lonnie Bennett, Del Grace, Reggie Covington and others from the great world of Sacred Steel music.  Names I had never heard before but are indelibly in my mind, heart, and soul.  Equipped and ready to take their sound beyond their church walls with a faith-driven expressionism that, without fail, makes frowns impossible and grins undeniable. Openly religious and Charismatic in there music as songs still have Jesus, God, and even hymns of the church featured very prominently.

Sacred Steel is being called the long lost cousin of the Blues with its wailing, moaning and fire breathing guitar solos and kicking rhythm I might add no longer lost, thanks in part to The Folk Alliance.  This music designed to move a congregation on Sunday moved every one in the room at the Sacred Steel Gospel Breakfast this past Sunday at one of the closing events of the 2010 conference.  This music in infectious, in a good way, and I have caught something of which I hope I am never cured.

I thank The Folk Alliance, Louis Meyers – Executive Director, The Lee Boys, Ted Beard and all who took the time and effort to expose me to This Black History Lesson.

Always Remember to: Honor Thy Music.

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