Featuring Richard Smallwood
Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm
$50 Front Orchestra / $25 General Admission / $20 Students/Seniors at smarttix.com
The Gospel Choir of Park Avenue Christian Church
The Marble Community Gospel Choir
Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and pianist Richard Smallwood, one of gospel music’s living legends, will perform a concert of his original music, joined by the Gospel Choir of the Park Avenue Christian Church and the Marble Community Gospel Choir of Marble Collegiate Church. Smallwood has been one of the most popular inspirational artists in the music business for nearly four decades, with classic gospel songs such as “Total Praise,” “Center of My Joy,” and “I Love the Lord” to his credit. His songs have been recorded by a who’s who of the gospel world including Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Price, Gerald Levert, and American Idol’s Ruben Studdard.
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Smallwood has been driven since childhood. His father, former pastor of the historic Union Temple in Washington, D.C., was a tough taskmaster, and his mother on the other hand encouraged Smallwood’s early love of music. The two extremes fueled his passion. He began to play piano by ear by the age of five. By seven, Smallwood was taking formal lessons and by eleven, had formed his own gospel group. In junior high school, he was blessed with future Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician Roberta Flack as one of his teachers and musical mentors.
Continuing his studies in Washington, DC, Smallwood graduated from Howard University cum laude with a degree in music where he was active as a member of Howard’s first gospel group, the Celestials as well as a founding member of the renowned Howard Gospel Choir. He also developed lifelong relationships with fellow classmates Donny Hathaway, Debbie Allen, and Phylicia Rashad who would go on to make their acclaim in the entertainment industry.
Following college, Smallwood taught music at the University of Maryland before founding the Richard Smallwood Singers in 1977. The ensemble’s progressive, contemporary sound earned them a record deal with Benson Records in 1981. Their debut LP, The Richard Smallwood Singers, spent 87 weeks on Billboard magazine’s Spiritual chart cultivating a fresh, young sophisticated audience for the ensemble. Their next LP, Psalms, hit #1 and they were on a roll – they moved to Word Records in 1987 where they recorded gospel standards such as “Center of My Joy,” “Calvary,” and “Holy Holy.” The group’s popularity led to an invitation to perform in the Soviet Union, reportedly the first gospel group to give a concert tour of the country at the time.
After several albums with Sparrow Records in the early `90’s, Smallwood retired the Smallwood Singers and birthed the choir, Vision. Their debut CD, Adoration: Live in Atlanta, appeared on Verity Records in spring 1996 featuring the smash radio singles “Total Praise” and “Angels.” In the years since, Smallwood and Vision have released radio gospel blockbusters such as “Healing,” “Anthem of Praise” and “Bless The Lord.”
After several years of creative dormancy following the death of his mother in 2005, he began to write songs for a new album. This recent release, Promises, is Smallwood’s most personal and intimate album yet featuring a tribute to his musical mentor, Walter Hawkins; a collaboration with his protégé, Donald Lawrence; a cameo by jazz-soul artist Lalah Hathaway; his ensemble of singers known as Vision; and yet another collaboration with his co-producer Steven Ford who first collaborated with Smallwood on his 1987 CD Textures, which included the popular “Center of My Joy.”