Approxiatemely 15,000 gospel music lovers gathered in the heart of Dallas, Texas for the 2006 session of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA). The twenty-four hour convention took place at the Hyatt Regency Dallas Hotel, the lavish Adams Mark Hotel and the Dallas Convention Center and presented one of the better years in this decade for the mighty muscle workshop of Gospel music.
Even though I didn't go and participate this year, PRAYZEHYMN still was still on assignment. And has and is still receiving reports from several valuable sources regarding this year's festivities and events.
First off, Workshop opened with the illustrious Come As You Are Musical, which is becoming an attention-getter for independent artists. Especially since the program for this event simply allows artists to perform without registration - just show up and sing. The service lasted a while and was led by GMWA Announcers' Guild chairman Al "The Bishop" Hobbs and Detroit radio personality Evangelist Norma Jean Pender (better known as "Reverend Mother"). The dress code was cool and casual.
Sunday featured the Communion & Consecration Service, starting at 10:30 a.m., and featured a tough nugget of truth from guest speaker Bishop Kenneth Moales (President, National Convention of Gospel Choirs and choruses). Music ministry was provided by Yolanda Adams, the James Cleveland Gospel Chorus, Thruston Frazier Memorial Chorale and the super-huge GMWA Dallas Chapter Mass Choir. The kick-off salute on Sunday to the Gospel Music Workshop was also big and well received by a crowd of 2,500. Hosted by Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Michael A. Davis and Yolanda Adams, the star-studded extravaganza featured a slew of artists, but serious highlights included the reunion of the Caravans, the legendary Walter Hawkins, powerhouse gospel singer Angela Spivey and the Donald Lawrence showcase (featuring singers and extra spotlight on Dewayne Woods & When Singers Meet).
As usual, Mondays is the first day of work. The same applies to this year's lineup at GMWA. Workshops, seminars, choir rehearsals and the Daily Bread services (Dorinda Clark-Cole preached one night and wrecked the house) were all geared up. When night fell on Dallas, the action only escalated. The Nightly Musical Services, featuring dozens of GMWA chapter choirs including the historic Atlanta Masonic Choir, Dallas Chapter, Birmingham Community Mass Choir and the New Orleans Chapter (whom were received with much support and recognition due to the disastrous destruction from Hurricane Katrina), delivered with intensity and with plenty of retro-songs to sing along to. The nightly musicals, which went from Monday to Thursday, also contained a number of well-known artists and label support including Vickie Winans and Kelly Price on Thursday and a sensational line-up on Tuesday featuring EMI Gospel's Smokie Norful and LaShun Pace and a big salute to the Williams Brothers featuring a line-up from the Malaco Music Group, which featured Dottie Peoples and Luther Barnes. The Youth Forum, also taking place at the same time as the Nightly Services, featured a number of highlights - mainly towards the end of the week. Thursday, probably the strongest night, featured music ministry from Byron Cage, Texas' raised James Fortune & FIYA, Myron Butler & Levi and former R&B sensation/now GospoCentric artist Dave Hollister.
Wednesday night. Probably one of the most celebrated occasions on the Workshop's calendar is the "Tribute To The King" showcase and musical. It seems as if all the big time record labels work together for this enormous spectacular. Hosted by Richard Smallwood, Byron Cage, Kirk Franklin, Dottie Peoples, Angela Spivey and longtime friend of the founder and gospel narrator Edna Tatum, the event was lined up with heavy hitters and some neat surprises. To see Judith Christie-McAllister in the room and to perform a tribute Cleveland was something else. Coko also showed up, Men of Standard and Kim Burrell paid tribute and new artists including Zie'l and Amy Rushes were on program. Vanessa Bell Armstrong walked everyone down memory lane, Maurette Brown-Clark teased us with her amazing ministry and local heroes James Fortune & FIYA and the Texas Boyz presented. Malcolm Williams & Great Faith, who were not originally on program, also surprised the gatherers.
Gospel Music Workshop closes out every year with the live recordings on Friday. This year's events were neutral. Surprisingly, the Women of Worship failed to impress with a down-graded representation of singers and songwriters, while the Mass Choir also lacked a good choice of songs. The Mass Choir were presented with songs from V. Michael McKay and Steven Roberts. The Youth Mass Choir, though they were shortened probably because most schools were back in session at the time, surprisingly came through with a 200+ member choir and did well with their songs. The Men of Promise excelled and blew away the competition with over 800 singers and performed material presented by VaShawn Mitchell and Lamar Campbell. Gayle Arbuckle, Isadore Jackson and Wayne Evans also presented songs to the Men's Choir. No one known for sure as of yet what will go on this year's compilation of the live recordings. We are just hoping that the production isn't as big as it was on the Tampa/Sanchez G. Harley project and not as low-budgeted as the Kansas City collection.
GMWA Mass Choir Profile (PH: Power In The Mass)