Sunday, May 22, 2016

Richard Smallwood & Vision

                          Richard Smallwood & Vision

Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace You give me in time of the storm

“He’s worthy of the glory, he’s worthy of the honor, every time I think of the goodness of Jesus and allllll he’s done for me,” Smallwood exclaims as the audience cheers. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” 

Richard Smallwood - Adoration: Live In Atlanta Original VHS Release Date: May 21, 1996

After 40 years in the industry, Smallwood has done what no other gospel artist arguably has done as successfully: blend gospel with classical music.
Congregations have translated his songs into Korean, German, Hebrew and other languages. He has eight Grammy nominations and within the gospel music industry has won four Dove Awards and 10 Stellars. Three of his 14 albums hit No. 1 in Billboard magazine’s gospel category.

 “I was trying to write a pity-party song, but God pulled me to do a praise song. God said, ‘I want your praise no matter what the situation you are in, good or bad.’ It’s about trusting him.”

  Richard Smallwood & Vision giving glory and praise

By Keith L. Alexander The Washington Post
Richard Smallwood (born November 30, 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia) moved to Washington as a child with his mother, Mabel, and his stepfather, the Rev. Chester L. Smallwood, a strict, Bible-enforcing preacher and founder of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast. (For more than 30 years, Smallwood has been a member of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, where he has served as musician and choir director.)

By the time he was 7, he was taking music lessons and continued until he was 15. But young Richard had a secret: He could play only by ear. He couldn’t read music. He’d have each teacher play a song, then he’d memorize the chords and play the song back to his teacher’s delight. “I was used to getting over on my teachers,” he admits.

He formed his first gospel group when he was 11, made up of kids from his Northeast Washington neighborhood. When he was in eighth grade at Browne Junior High, he had a fresh-out-of-Howard University music major as his teacher: Roberta Flack.

He went on to McKinley Technology High School in Northeast, where he auditioned for a music program at Howard. The instructor quickly figured out that Richard could not read music but agreed to admit him if he’d learn.

Smallwood later majored in classical piano with a minor in voice at Howard, beginning in 1967. He was mentored by a talented music major named Donny Hathaway. Hathaway showed him how to play a jazzy version of the hymn “Nothing but the Blood,” Smallwood recalls. “He told me to play and sing what you feel — it’s all God’s music.”

Smallwood helped form Howard’s gospel choir, and sitting in a basement practice room in the fine arts department, he penned what became another of his biggest hits, “I Love the Lord.”

Richard graduated cum laude from Howard University with degrees in both vocal performance and piano, in addition to graduate work in the field of ethnomusicology. Smallwood was a member of The Celestials, the first gospel group on Howard University's campus. That group was the first gospel act to appear at Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival. Richard was also a founding member of Howard's first gospel choir.
Smallwood's recording career began in 1982 with the album The Richard Smallwood Singers. The album spent 87 weeks on Billboard's Gospel chart. Its followup, Psalms was nominated for a Grammy. Two years later the album Textures was also nominated. Textures spawned the now-classic "Center Of My Joy" written by Richard Smallwood along with Bill and Gloria Gaither. He won his first Grammy, along with a Dove Award for his production on the Quincy Jones' gospel project Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.

He finished his Masters degree in Divinity from Howard University in 2004 and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Tears are for cleansing, stress and relief
Created by God just to give us release
They’re not in vain, for soon will come peace
If you sow in tears you’ll reap in joy

Some of the greatest hymns have come from sorrow, for sorrow is universal. Thomas Dorsey wrote “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” in 1932 after his wife and child died. Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” after his four daughters died in a shipwreck in 1873. John Newton, a onetime slave ship captain, wrote the first lines of “Amazing Grace” in the mid-1700s following a stormy journey on a ship.

Smallwood’s songs even transcend faiths. Cantor Sheldon Levin, conductor of the Makhelat Hamercaz Jewish Choir of Central New Jersey, heard “Total Praise” sung by a choir from the Jewish Theological Seminary about two years ago. He taught it to his choir in both English and Hebrew. At a North American Jewish choral festival, they received a standing ovation. “It blew people away,” Levin says.

“Total Praise,” like many of Smallwood’s songs, is based on Psalm 121, in which David wrote about relying on God during his most difficult times: “You are the source of my strength/ You are the strength of my life/ I lift my hands in total praise to You.”

Levin says the words are a universal prayer. “We can all praise God and thank God. It doesn’t have to be a Jewish composer or a Christian composer,” he says. “His music is awe inspiring.”

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