She’s known as Gospel’s Greatest Storyteller and on Wednesday, September 25 Dorothy Norwood added another page to her story. The septuagenarian who turns 78 in November, recorded her 52nd live recording before a packed house that included many gospel luminaries at Reid Temple A.M.E. church in Glenn Dale, Md.
The master storyteller not only drew the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) crowd, but fans and well-wishers traveled from Philadelphia, Mississippi, Georgia and other parts of the country to celebrate the landmark recording.
Dorothy Norwood assembled a great cast of composers and minstrels for the recording and subsequent album. Dorinda Clark-Cole, Vashawn Mitchell, Melvin Williams and celebrated songwriter and choirmaster V.Michael McKay lent their talents to the song-filled night.
Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music (PL&MOM) backed Ms. Norwood while Roderick Giles served as vocal producer and brought along Cherlita Claiborne, Antonio Covington, Chad Gilbert, LaKeisha Goldsberry, Jocelyn Hill and Nischka Higginbotham (some of them members of his group, Extol) who added their vocals.
Gospel industry insider Pastor Jerome Bell served as the night’s emcee. After the audience received instructions from Stellar Award winner and the producer of the night’s recording, Isaiah Thomas, the stage was set for the night to begin.
The concert opened with “In The Room.” That was followed by VaShawn Mitchell delivering the soul-stirring “Great Jehovah God,” written by Isaiah Thomas. Roxanne Broadnax was the soloist for “Who Touched Me” written by V. Michael McKay. After that Dorothy Norwood took the mic for “Blessing in the Pressing.”
The storyteller decided to go back in time and delivered a lively version of Bill Wither‘s “Lean On Me” with robust backing by PL&MOM.
There were several stand-outs among the rich tapestry of songs, including Melvin Williams and Ms. Norwood’s “When The Church Prays” written by V. Michael McKay. Williams and Ms. Norwood’s vocals drove home the meaning behind the song’s straight-forward title and what happens when the mandate is followed. “Could Have Been Me (Other People)” delivered by Dorinda Clark-Cole was a crowd-pleaser and Clark-Cole, as always gave it her best. The song was so powerful that Clark-Cole was brought back to the stage for a reprise.
Another stand-out performance was V. Michael McKay directing Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music on another song from his pen, “Oh Jesus.” The song, dominated by the lyrics “Oh Jesus” was one that enthralled the audience with its simplistic, yet evocative calling of the name above all names.
As the night drew to a close the greatest storyteller sat down and told her story. Dorothy Norwood told of her Jim Crow experiences (packing chicken because restaurants were not welcoming), traveling with Mahalia Jackson, joining The Caravans and forming her own group, The Dorothy Norwood Singers. And of course, there was that 30-day tour with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Oh, and the song “Victory Is Mine” heard in the movie “The Help”? Dorothy Norwood wrote that. Sprinkled among the many anecdotes were valuable lessons about the gospel music industry and life in general.
Next Ms. Norwood sang the Patrick Lundy-penned song,”God Will Come Through For You” with LaQuitta Moultrie a member of PL&MOM.
In a nod to the next generation, the storyteller called on Shamar Biggham, grandson of Milton Biggham of the famed Georgia Mass Choir who sang “It’s In His Hands.” Biggham demonstrated that he is poised to continue the family’s musical legacy.
The live recording was a testament to the longevity of Dorothy Norwood’s career. The size of the crowd at Reid Temple also validates that this style of gospel music will always be relevant as it seeks to share the “good news.” After the concert, many streamed forward to shake hands or give a hug to the woman who helped pave the way for so many.
Gospel great Richard Smallwood and Stephen Hurd were in the audience supporting the revered singer. Also spotted were Jacquie Gales Webb, Ron Magnus, Shirley M.K. Berkeley, Sanchez Harley, Clifton Ross, Jeremiah Hicks, Tanya Dallas-Lewis, Danell Moore, CD Porter.
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