Some of the greatest songs in Gospel music have been birthed out of the roughest, most beautifully tragic and emotionally aware moments in a songwriter’s life.
From Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” to Jason Nelson’s “Forever”, the heart of Gospel music’s lyrical experience lies in the raw truth and unabashed worship that underscores the often complicated and downright hard aspects of the human existence. Gospel music helps us give thanks while celebrating and gives us a roadmap for coming back from defeat.
One organization that celebrates the unique gift of the Gospel songwriter is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). For the past 10 years, ASCAP has honored songwriters and artists at a breakfast event that takes during the highly anticipated Stellar Gospel Music Awards weekend. ASCAP partnered with Motown Gospel to present the anticipated event – “Morning Glory”. One of the weekend’s main attractions, it is always high energy, and this year was no exception. Held at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, and hosted by Motown Gospel artist and television personality Lexi, “Morning Glory” 2019 reinforced the necessary staying power of Gospel music.
“We are honored to partner with ASCAP once again on the 10th anniversary of ‘Morning Glory,’ said EJ Gaines, Co-Executive Director, Motown Gospel. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight some of our exciting new releases, while showing our appreciation to the gospel music community and recognizing the incredible talents of our artists and writers.”
This Gospel Life attended the exclusive, invite only event and talked to attendees and honorees about where they believe Gospel music is headed. It was encouraging to hear the artists that have created the soundtrack that frames many of our personal stories of triumph and overcoming talk about the future of this beloved genre.
Motown Gospel artist Gene Moore told us that his hope for the direction of Gospel music is that “it comes full circle and things get back to where there is variety and there are different sounds.” (He said that) Gospel music has gone through many style changes over the years and made reference to how Kanye West is marrying diverse sounds of Gospel music and showing the potential of what can be done.
This musical kaleidoscope that Kanye West creates at his Sunday Service experiences, hosted in the hills of Southern California, has become a viral sensation on social media. These experiences contain a full band with a slamming horn section and an incredibly energetic 30-something voice choir that seems to get larger and larger each week. However, theses Sunday music experiences would not be possible without the hard work of Kanye West’s musical director, Jason White, former minister of music at West Angeles Church of God In Christ. Jason and his wife Geneen said that these Sunday Services show that “Gospel music is headed outside of the four walls; not that it hasn’t always been, but we can feel entitled like its “our” gospel music,” the couple said. Jason added that he has observed how these concerts, which are spiritual events, are indeed changing lives: “I’m watching it with my own eyes.” Jason says that Kanye West is “heavily involved”. “God can use whoever he wants to use and when He’s using people that aren’t necessarily in our scope, we can’t be offended by it,” Jason says. “God’s love is for everybody and it is truly for Mr. West. He’s being touched by the love of the choir members, the love of the Kingdom, the love of the musicians. We know that he loves God…he may never step foot in a church… but he is experiencing the love of God.”
This is what Gospel music is all about – helping people to experience the love of God, and it is why events such as Morning Glory, celebrating the makers of the music, are so important.
Possibly one of the youngest Gospel artists currently enjoying a rise in popularity, Kelontae Gavin said Gospel music’s “sound changes, but the message does not.” He went on to explain that in the bible, Jesus had different communication devices: “Elijah go to the brook, Moses with the Burning Bush, Noah with the Ark…The place of authenticity is wherever you are.”
The legendary and always relevant dynamic duo of brothers Anson and Eric Dawkins (Dawkins & Dawkins), who multi-task as artists, producers, and writers, said their hope for the direction of Gospel music is that it reaches larger platforms and bigger audiences. “We have different platforms (now) because of social media. Being seen by a bigger audience is important. On stages such as the GRAMMY® Awards, they need a stronger presence of Gospel.”
A special moment of the event happened when Monica Coates, Co-Executive Director, Motown Gospel, imparted meaningful remarks about Brian Courtney Wilson, as he was surprised with a special plaque to celebrate his #1 single, “A Great Work.” The song, from the Stellar and GRAMMY®-nominated album of the same name, has become the fastest-rising radio single of Wilson’s career.
Love, hope, power and praise were displayed in the performances enjoyed by Morning Glory guests. One of them was from husband and wife duo Jerard & Jovaun, who delivered the Hillsong Worship anthem “What A Beautiful Name” with a riveting Gospel flair. Gene Moore debuted “Ask for Rain” from his forthcoming sophomore album. Before his performance, Moore gave his personal testimony, explaining that he faced a storm of adversities last year and simply “asked God for rain.” His performance brought the audience to their feet. Moore’s last album, The Future, earned him a 2018 Stellar nomination for New Artist of the Year.
“Every year, this event becomes more meaningful than the last and truly represents the spirit of Gospel music,” says Nicole George-Middleton, ASCAP Senior Vice President of Membership. “The energy in the room is always uplifting and inspirational.”