Gospel For One Church

Wednesday 21st September 2005

One of the most unexpected comebacks in gospel music has been achieved by KURT CARR. Mike Rimmer met up with the veteran.

Gospel For One Church

Kurt Carr is sitting in a hotel room in Nashville and in a lively mood as I sit down to chat with him. The extraordinary success of the live album 'One Church' has been added to previous triumphs that have made Carr a popular artist, respected choir leader and celebrated songwriter. So far his only live ministry in the UK has been at a large black majority church in London where he went down a storm. He says, "I think generally English audiences are more reserved. In this particular church, they were just on fire. I just think that English people are much more reserved in general. But we still have a good time. We've been there several times and we're coming back before the year is out." Sadly Carr hasn't yet stepped outside of London to sample the rest of the UK but maybe soon!

So how would he describe what it is that he's doing in gospel music now? "That's a good question." He thinks for a moment, "Everything! I kind of do everything. I think slowly, I'm making my segue into what my future will be. I believe that in the next 10-15 years I'll be behind a desk and be the mastermind behind some record label or something. Pushing other people into their destiny. Still producing, but probably easing away from the performing."

Kurt's gospel roots go deep. Although not raised in a church going family, he took it upon himself to start attending services at age 13 and soon became active in his church's musical programmes. His inspiration were albums by gospel greats Walter Hawkins, James Cleveland and Andrae Crouch. Carr attended the University of Connecticut in his hometown of Hartford, graduating with a degree in fine arts and a newfound appreciation of classical music. He was mentored by the classically trained gospel legend Richard Smallwood, who broadened the young student's horizons to include elements of different musical styles in his compositions and whom Carr still refers to as his "godfather." In 1986, Carr joined with Rev James Cleveland and his ensemble, acting as pianist and musical director until the gospel patriarch's death in 1991.

Carr released an album of his compositions and arrangements entitled 'Together' on Light Records in 1991. Starting his own record label, Gospo Centric, in 1992, the energetic musical director led his group, the Kurt Carr Singers, through several albums of contemporary music thoroughly steeped in the traditional sound of gospel including 1994's 'Serious About It!', 1997's 'No One Else' and 'Awesome Wonder' in 2000. As well as his own recordings and serving as creative director for the LA-based West Angeles Church Of God In Christ, Carr has been an active promoter of the acts on his Gospo Centric label, including such industry heavy hitters as Trin-i-Tee 5:7, Gospel Gangstas and Kirk Franklin And The Family.

Kurt has a history of encouraging talent with the Kurt Carr Singers. He laughs, "I keep telling a few of them that it's time for me to kick some of them out of the nest and so that they do their own projects and spin-offs from the group. It's just a natural evolution and I believe it's happening and it's my heart. I feel that what I do as a performer, as a minister, there's something that God has given me that's special and unique. But I feel called to pour it into other people so that they'll be able to do it too on the same level that I do it. When I'm producing them I write the song and I usually write a song tailor-made for that person; specific as far as range, their pitch, where they soar best, what parts of their voice just blossoms, the right key.everything. And lyrically I try to think how they think and then I teach it to them. I teach it to them, have them sing it in the studio and then I'll come back and say, 'Now you make it your own.'"

From his most recent release, it seems that "God Great God" has been the song that has blown everybody away. He has begun to see his music spread out beyond the walls of black majority churches. Kurt talks about the song, "With the success of 'In The Sanctuary', I was praying and asking God for direction for this new album. I just could not stop thinking about 'Sanctuary' and I'm like, 'What is it? What is it? What is it? God, instruct me.' I prayed that he would open the ear of the world to the song. I'm told it's been translated into nine different languages. All over the world they're singing it and literally, this song has gone places that I'll never go. God compelled me - 'It's time for you to totally - you've done it slightly but now, really just burst forth, full-steam ahead, outside of the black church and reach the world.' The song 'God Great God' has an Indian sitar, which I've never heard in a gospel song before. Not a black gospel song! A sitar and 18 guitar tracks. It's a mixture of Christian and Indian yet within the black church influence."

One of the issues with being a successful artist is that there is a temptation for your latest album to simply reflect the styles of your last blockbuster album. Kurt is to be admired for not succumbing to this pressure. Each album sees him introducing new elements and 'One Church' is no exception. He leaps up as I make the comment. "I could just shake your hand!" he grins, "I keep saying 'I REFUSE to make the same record, with different words!' People want the same record and that's why this time I went totally in another direction. I was just downstairs and Donnie McClurkin's sister stopped me and said, 'You're almost Broadway! It sounds like theatre!' I wanted to do something that was totally different."

If Kurt is creating songs that cross genres and church denominations, does the 'One Church' project reflect a heart to see churches come together in unity? "That's the whole premise behind 'One Church'," he exclaims. "I know I won't change the world with this one CD but hopefully I'll ignite people's thinking to say, 'Wow! We CAN do different types of things! Black and white CAN come together!' And not just black and white, but international - people of different races and different cultures can come together and do music."  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Reader Comments

Posted by vanessa sheridan in florida city, florida @ 06:11 on May 29 2009

hello, Mr. Carr i was writing about the testimony that you gave on TBN. I was so touched by it, so many times we be going through things that we think noone can identify with and along comes God with a message from one of his willing vessel, that helps people to make it another day. I am a disabled american veteran (39), trying to get my disability with 3 children(widow) and a handicapped brother and handicapped sister that i take care of. And believe me this is not a easy job. But messages and songs that come from you it makes it much easy to bear. and i thank you for doing what God has command you to do.

thank you
vanessa sheridan

Posted by stanley emeryls in lekki, Lagos, Nigeria. @ 10:10 on Mar 5 2008

kurt carr was a blessing to my musical ministry during 2007 november exprience, he ministered and i was feeling his voice working through my body like Heavens wind,,,, would love to be connected to him,,,pls let me have is contacts.... thanks a million


Posted by Chima in Lagos Nigeria @ 13:23 on Sep 4 2007

When I heard Kurt Carr's One Church Project album at a friend's bridal shop in the city of Lagos some months ago...it was like a breath of fresh air and I knew...it was time for the church to really move. Would love to have his e mail address.
Thanks Bro Kurt, God bless you.

Posted by FEHLAU, Jens in Luedenscheid, Germany @ 09:41 on Oct 18 2006

Hi this is Jens,I'm a member of the German Gospol-Choir "Heavens Gate".We're located in Luedenscheid near Dortmund.We've seen Kurt Carr and his Singers on a concert-night during the Gospelchurchday in Duesseldorf in September this year-WOW-what a great man, full of power and fire, as well as his singers, really!They infect me and our choir with his songs.From this day, my dream is to get in contact with Kurt Carr.Perhaps, one day it comes true.God bless them!Jens

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