Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parisians No Strangers to Gospel Music

“After a long love affair with jazz, the blues, and African-American culture in general, Paris is suddenly awash in ‘church music.’”

This quote comes from an article written by Lori Montgomery and published in the Rome News-Tribune in October 1997. The church music that is being referred to is gospel.

The article goes on to quote long-time Paris resident Richard Allen as saying “Gospel has been on the rise for about three years, but now it’s almost taken over. It’s where jazz used to be.”

I’ve lived in Paris since 1992 and can testify that there was a surge of interest in gospel music during the latter half of the decade. While gospel brunches à la Chesterfield Café* are no longer the rage around town, Paris’ love affair with the music is still alive and well. Not a month goes by when there are not several opportunities to listen to gospel performed by groups or solo artists.

Solo artists in Paris tend to be women . . . Manda Djinn and Linda Lee Hopkins spring immediately to mind. These ladies have incredible voices and are an indelible part of Paris’ gospel scene.

Manda Djinn
Photo courtesy of Manda Djinn

Choirs such as Gospel Dream and Gospel River are ever present in Paris nowadays – they perform so frequently that you can easily find fliers around town announcing a 4- to 6-week roster for their concerts. Their concerts are generally held in churches—not only at the American Church and the American Cathedral, but also at French churches such as Saint Julien le Pauvre and Saint Germain des Prés. Gospel Dream recently opened its doors to provide singing lessons (cours de chant) to the general public, offering two sessions every Monday evening.

Gospel Dream fliers
© Discover Paris!

The Total Praise Mass Choir, organized by Pastors David and Jocelyne Goma (from Congo Brazzaville and Paris, respectively), is another such group. With membership ranging between 150 and 200, it is the largest gospel choir in France. The Gomas have organized an annual Gospel Festival in Paris since 2003 and have invited some of the biggest names in gospel in the U.S. to participate. Artists who have flown to the French capital to sing with the choir include Kirk Franklin, Byron Cage, Marvin Sapp, and Donnie McClurkin.

This year’s featured artist was CeCe Winans.

* The Chesterfield Café, once located on rue La Boétie off the Champs Elysées, is now closed.


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