Every Sunday lunch at Alma de Cuba, the historic walls of the former church building are filled with the beautiful sounds of gospel music.
The origins of the soulful singing can be traced back to the 17th century, where its roots began in the black oral tradition of involving illiterate members of the community in worship through call and response singing.
Since then, the genre of music has expanded hugely, producing some of the world’s biggest music stars. And after the sad news that the legendary Aretha Franklin past away this week, we decided to take a look back at some of the biggest names in gospel and their impact on the music world…
The undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin started her legendary career singing gospel at new Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit and the influence of those years never truly left her music.
Despite huge commercial success with secular compositions, she continued to create gospel-lead hits including Amazing Grace and Climbing Higher Mountains.
The soul singer is credited as being one of the leading performers who brought gospel music into the mainstream.
The Respect singer recorded her first gospel album when she was just 14 years old, and went on to make 41 more studio albums and six live albums, winning 18 Grammy awards.
The first gospel singer to sell over one million copies of a single, Mahalia Jackson was fundamental in putting the genre on the map and in the consciousness of mainstream America. Known as ‘The Queen of Gospel’, she became influential not only for her powerful voice but also in her work as a civil rights activist.
Born in New Orleans in 1911, Mahalia started singing at the local Mount Moriah Baptist Church. After moving to Chicago during the Great Migration at the age of 16, she was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. From there, she began touring and after meeting Thomas A. Dorsey in 1929, started a 14-year professional relationship with him, singing around the country. She went on to record 30 albums during her career and even sang at the president inaugural ball of John F. Kennedy and at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
Throughout her career Mahalia supported the civil rights movement, often singing before King’s speeches and donating money to the cause. She’s even credited with encouraging King in his ‘I have a dream speech’: Toward’s the end of King’s presentation at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the famous activist departed from his prepared text, after Jackson shouted “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”.
Known as the ‘Father of Gospel Music’, Thomas Dorsey was a former jazz pianist and composer who began working for the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1930s.
Having previously worked with musicians including Ma Rainey and Hudson Tamp Red Whitaker, Dorsey began to create a new style of traditional gospel music called gospel blues, which blended the old religious form with his study of blues and jazz. He’s credited with writing more than 400 blues and jazz songs.
Moments before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968 he asked to have Dorsey’s song ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ performed. In the days following, the song became a kind of anthem for black America in a time of deep grief across the states.
Undoubtedly the King of Gospel, the Rev. Dr. James Cleveland was a huge influence on modern gospel, particularly in the composition of pieces for mass choirs.
The first gospel musician to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame, James began singing when he was just a boy at the Pilgrim Baptist Church under Thomas A. Dorsey. However, he strained his vocal chords as a teenager, leaving him with a distinctive, gravelly voice and a greater passion as a pianist and later composer than for singing.
Cleveland was the founder of the Southern California Community Choir, an organisation which counts thousands of members amongst its ranks, and lead to the discovery of famous new American gospel singers including John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams.
In his lifetime, Cleveland worked with stars of gospel and soul including Billy Preston, Odessa McCastle, Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Yolanda Adams.
While we largely associated gospel music with the African-American community and the Pentecostal churh in the US, the country also has a traditional of gospel which traces its roots back to the Presbyterian and Anglican churches.
American country-music is an off-shoot of gospel song and one of the genre’s most famous stars, Hank Williams, was arguably an influential gospel singer.
Born in Alabama in 1923, Hank only lived until the age of 29 and suffered from back pain, alcoholism and drug abuse throughout his life. But his sufferings inspired songs including I Saw the Light, The Old Country Church and Jesus Died for Me. Released under an alias (‘Luke the Drifter’) because he thought the religious-themed music might damage his star-appeal, the songs were commercially successful across the states amongst both black and white communities.
His lyrics often focused on sin, redemption and torment. The 1948 song I Saw the Light has since become a popular and regularly performed gospel piece with the likes of Etta James, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe and Willie Nelson covering it.
Known as the undisputed leader of contemporary gospel, Crouch composted famous gospel songs including The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, My Tribute (To God Be the Glory) and Soon and Very Soon.
He also succeeded in a career as a secular vocal arranger, working with Michael Jackson and Madonna on choral work as well as famously helping out on the soundtrack of The Lion King. Notable work by Crouch includes Man in the Mirror, Madonna’s Like a Prayer and material for Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Elvis Presley.
As a child, Andraé had a stammer but claimed that singing gospel helped him overcome it.
This Sunday, why not in indulge in a delectable brunch at one of Liverpool’s finest old church buildings and enjoy the sounds of our amazing live gospel choir, Soulful Voices?
Taking place every week, between 2pm and 5pm, the Sunday Service Gospel Brunch is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the beautiful music genre.
With a menu that includes delectable Sunday roasts and delicious brunch-inspired starters, Sunday Service Gospel Brunch is a unique brunching experience you’ll struggle to find anywhere else!
To book a table, please call 0151 305 3744.