Sing Traditional Gospel Music In Berkeley Springs
April 25 and 26 is the Good News Gospel Weekend in Berkeley Springs when gospel music master Eric Byrd comes to town for workshops and a concert. Saturday's workshops are targeted to individual singers and musicians as well as choir members with sessions where people learn to sing, accompany and direct traditional black gospel music styles. Sunday at 3 p.m., Byrd brings his McDaniel College Gospel Choir to perform along with attendees of the Saturday workshops. All activities of the weekend are in the Berkeley Springs High School auditorium.
"Just ask any amateur or even professional singer and you'll find that most got their start singing in church," says Mary Hott, executive director of the Morgan Arts Council - and an R&B singer who sang the Morgan County Methodist church circuit throughout high school. "The opportunity to work with a world class teacher and performer like Eric Byrd is one no musician should miss no matter what their ethnicity." Hott goes on to point out that gospel music, along with blues, formed the basis of nearly all pop music styles in existence today.
There are four distinct workshops on Saturday. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m, the topic is how to get started in gospel music for singers, accompanists and choir directors. From 11 a.m. to noon, Byrd fields questions at a bringyour own brown bag lunch. A youth singer's workshop happens from noon to 2 p.m. The afternoon concludes with a gospel concert workshop from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m to prepare for the Sunday performance. "Anyone who wants to sing with the McDainel College Choir on Sunday needs to attend at least this final workshop," says Hott.
Preregistration can be done at the Ice House, the Morgan County Library or online at www.macicehouse.org. "We want people to preregister so we can provide them with all the de- tails," says Hott. The Gospel Music Weekend is part of the Morgan Arts Council's yearlong Back To Our Roots celebration of music, dance, folklore and visual arts inspired by the Smithsonian Institution's "New Harmonies" exhibition of roots music on display at the Ice House in Berkeley Springs from April 11 through May 22. "For America, gospel is the essence of roots music," says Hott.
Eric Byrd recently wowed a sold-out audience at the Ice House with a Ray Charles Tribute concert. Along with his impressive resume as a jazz pianist and vocalist, Byrd has been a minister of music at two black churches as well as directing the McDaniel College Gospel Choir.
Sunday's concert is free and open to the public. A goodwill offering will be collected to help cover transportation costs for the college choir. Morgan Sanitation is the local sponsor of the Gospel Weekend. Other funding assistance comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, West Virginia Commission on the Arts and local hotel/motel tax funds.
For more information, call 304- 258-2300.