Gospel Jubilee Blends Voices, Memories From Across Capital Region

Apr 19, 2018

A celebration of Albany's black history and tradition in music is coming up. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas previews this week's seventh annual Gospel Jubilee.

It's the largest continuing gospel celebration in the Capital Region. Sara Hill is the creator and co-producer of Gospel Jubilee at Proctors.    "It celebrates everything gospel. It celebrates music, it celebrates community, it celebrates worship. All walks of life, all cultural backgrounds. And it is a community-driven night of praise and love. That's how I like to look at it."

Featured performers include the Jubilee Mass Choir, comprised of choir members from various churches in the Capital Region.   "I'm excited about gospel legend Dorothy Norwood, who will be joining us and gracing our stage for Gospel Jubilee. She has been singing for decades."

Norwood owns several gold records and opened for The Rolling Stones during their 1972 American tour.

A local trailblazer is being honored as well: Albany radio legend Edward "Pee Wee" Harris, whose career spanned 22 years.  "A prominent leader in the Albany black community back in the day. And he gave us a great rotation of R&B, soul and gospel music."

Toni Brady, a pioneering general manager at Albany's WABY, hired Harris.  Son John recalls Pee Wee channeled his gratitude. "Dad was not only interested in radio announcing but he wanted to ensure that others had opportunity behind the scenes to have employment. I'm just blessed today that people do remember him and the fun times that we had back in the late 50s and 60s and early 70s."

Many of the records Harris spun would "cross over" onto local top 40 radio station playlists.  Harris was also a savvy businessman: youth of all colors flocked to his "Ten Eyck Record Shop" on South Pearl Street.   "...which was really a place where young people like myself would go to get the latest R&B and gospel and all of the great music."

Albany jazz great Stefon Harris will also perform at the jubilee in honor of Pee Wee, his grandfather.

Gospel Jubilee takes place Friday 7 p.m. at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.  Here's a link to get tickets.