In partnership with Penn State Harrisburg
The Susquehanna Folk Arts Center presents
Artist to Artist: A Residency
Exploring Gospel Traditions
Saturday, February 27, 2021 — all day!
About This Event:
Enjoy a full day of illuminating workshops and exciting performances in this virtual artists’ residency exploring the Gospel tradition from its historic roots to fresh contemporary interpretations.
The Campbell Brothers are a world-renowned “Sacred Steel” gospel group that features National Heritage Fellowship recipient Chuck Campbell on pedal steel guitar.
The Spiritual Messengers Warriors for God are a much-beloved local contemporary gospel ensemble whose work in the Harrisburg, PA community spans the last 30 years.
We’ll learn about this all-American art form — from the important role it plays in Black churches to its influences on rock and pop culture. The jam-packed day will feature conversations with the artists, musical demonstrations, and concerts featuring both performing groups. Folklorist Amy Skillman will serve as moderator.
SESSIONS AND PERFORMANCES
Session 1: It’s All About the Rhythm:
Creating fellowship through song: Spiritual Messengers Warriors for God
10 am - 11 am ET
Members of this Harrisburg-based contemporary gospel ensemble join folklorist Amy Skillman to explore “songwriting with a purpose.” We’ll talk about what inspires these musicians, what keeps them together, and how their music creates community.
Session 2: Can You Feel It?
Sacred Steel gospel traditions: The Campbell Brothers
11:30 am -1:00 pm ET
National Heritage Fellow Charles “Chuck” Campbell says that after the rhythm is set, the sacred steel guitar does everything else. It is the central voice for House of God gospel music, emotionally easing congregants through contemplative moments and propelling them to ecstatic celebration. Join the Campbell Brothers in this workshop to learn about the origins and sounds of the pedal (lap) steel guitar, as well as the influences on their music.
Session 3: Amazing Grace:
Intention and Innovation in Gospel Music
1:30-3:00 pm ET
Offering their individual versions of Amazing Grace as a starting point, this collaborative workshop will explore diversity within gospel music. Members of both bands will trade riffs to highlight the instrumental elements that create each band’s distinctive sound. We will also explore the experiences of performing for diverse audiences, from church congregations to festival-goers.
Performance by the Spiritual Messengers
3:30 - 4:00 pm ET
Produced at Penn State Harrisburg's beautiful Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre
Performance by The Campbell Brothers
4:15 - 4:45 pm ET
ABOUT THE PERFORMERS:
The Campbell Brothers
The Campbell Brothers present Sacred Steel: a compelling, rich variety of material from the African-American Holiness-Pentecostal repertoire with a new twist: the growling, wailing, shouting, singing, and swinging voice of the steel guitar, played as you have never heard it played before.
The tradition of African-American gospel music with electric steel guitar and vocal is just now emerging from the House of God Keith Dominion Church (based in Nashville, TN), where for over sixty years it has been an integral part of worship and a vital, if little known, American tradition.
As the music moves from sanctuary to concert hall — including the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Symphony Space — secular audiences are now able to appreciate a performance both devoted and rocking.
Pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell (2004 National Heritage Fellowship recipient) is one of the finest in this tradition. Rounding out the band, which has been playing together for nearly two decades, is a high-energy rhythm section featuring brother Phil Campbell on electric guitar, his son Carlton on drums, and bassist Malcom Kirby. Classic, gutsy gospel vocals by Katie Jackson and/or Denise Brown bring the ensemble to a level of energy and expression that defies description.
The Spiritual Messengers Warriors for God
Based in the Harrisburg area, the Spiritual Messengers are deeply rooted in traditional African American gospel with its harmonies, call-and-response, group singing and complex rhythms. However, their repertoire spans the whole range of Contemporary Gospel, from early spirituals through R&B and Soul music, even pulling in reggae beats and pop sounds reminiscent of The Temptations or the Chi-Lights.
Rev. Moses Jackson, his son Anthony Jackson, James “Mac” MacFarland, and Wayne Boulware are original members, going back to 1991. Newer members include Tom Cook, Daniel Stern, Jim McGroarty, and Mark Ward.
The Spiritual Messengers draw on their own experiences and the Word of God to inspire others to love and respect themselves and their community. With originals like “Take the Children Back” and “Clean Up,” they are creating social change through music, carrying on the tradition that inspired the Freedom Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Says member Daniel Stern “There’s a difference [between] learning it from books and then learning it from the source. This is part of a living community. This is not repertory music; it’s a living culture that’s produced a living music.”
- See the group's profile in the Susquehanna Folk Arts Center's Folk Artist Gallery, compiled by folklorist Amy Skillman.
- Follow the Spiritual Messengers Warriors for God on Facebook
- Watch a short clip of the Spiritual Messengers performing their song “Clean Up,” with people dancing along
- The Spiritual Messengers have a CD entitled Lord, I Want to Talk to You. They are taking advantage of COVID pandemic down-time to put the finishing touches on their next CD, which you can preview on Bandcamp.com