Dr. Rodena Preston-Williams
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
The musical legacy of the renowned Rev. Dr. James Cleveland will be saluted during the annual concert presented by the Gospel Music Workshop of America – Los Angeles Chapter.
The free event is set for Sunday, December 5, at 4 p.m., at People’s Independent Church of Christ, 5856 West Blvd, in Los Angeles. The Rev. Charles E. Williams is the host pastor.
“This concert celebrates Rev. Cleveland’s incredible ministry as the King of Gospel. It is also ‘A Birthday Tribute’ in recognition of his date of birth on December 5,” said Dr. Rodena Preston-Williams, LA Chapter Representative and GMWA National Mass Choir Director.
“Our program will feature include traditional gospel music and many songs you don’t hear anymore. Many guests will perform as well as the 100-voice GMWA choir and the 60-voice GMWA Youth and Young Adults. Both choirs are comprised of members from churches in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire,” said Dr. Preston-Williams who added that many of GMWA’s 185 chapters around the world will hold birthday tributes as well.
Rev. Cleveland, who was internationally celebrated and a multiple Grammy winner, also played a pioneering role in the growth of modern gospel music in Los Angeles. He served as Minister of Music at Grace Memorial Church of God in Christ and established the award-winning Southern California Community Choir. In addition, he founded the Cornerstone Institutional Baptist Church that grew from 10 congregants to thousands of members during his lifetime.
In 1967, Rev. James Cleveland and Albertina Walker, known as the Queen of Gospel Music, organized GMWA to teach others to achieve the modern gospel sound. GMWA’s current membership of 75,000 encompasses vocalists, instrumentalists, composers, arrangers, directors and producers affiliated with more than 185 chapters in the United States, United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
“Many of our chapters around the world will also hold birthday concerts in honor of Rev. Cleveland,” added Dr. Preston-Williams.
According to Billboard’s official website, approximately 75% of the music on its Gospel Charts is written, arranged, produced, or performed by GMWA members. Prominent gospel artists associated with GMWA include Dorothy Norwood, Kurt Carr, John P. Kee and Kirk Franklin.