Gospel: it’s music to wake up to. Music that gets you off your seat. Music that makes you want to raise your arms and cheer with elation.
Cherice Love, Jaquan “Quan” Clark and Shawn Winston are no strangers to the joy that gospel brings. They are part of a quartet called Spiritual Tones, representing Milwaukee's next generation of gospel singers and will be performing at the 5th Annual Milwaukee Gospel Jubilee on Friday night.
The concert is a fundraiser for Progressive Community Health Centers. It's a federally qualified health center providing medical, dental and integrated health services to primarily underserved and uninsured populations in Milwaukee's central city.
Progressive board member and local musician John Sieger joined the singers, and the four of them explained how they got into gospel music in the first place.
"In the early '90s, the Masonic Wonders needed a guitar player, so I found myself in these churches that were very unlike the ones I grew up in," Sieger explains. "Because I grew up in a Catholic church. There were no Gregorian chants in these churches, but there was something that sounded a lot like rock n' roll and blues, and just all the exciting music in America, and it was gospel."
"I've been in church all my life, so it's in the blood, really," adds Cherice Love. Her mom, Julia Prescott, is an experienced gospel singer and had been a member of the Queens of Harmony for over 30 years. And, Jaquan Clark says that both of his grandparents are pastors and bishops.
An aspect of gospel that makes it special, Sieger says, is that "someone will get up to sing and the whole crowd will support them. In a lot of other cultures, you can have the desire to sing laughed out of you. I know because it happened to my wife, and she's a good singer."
This group can perform acapella, but usually sing with instrumental back up with four total singers, a lead and three back-ups.
"There's a tradition of quartet singing," says Sieger. "They're all the harmonies I love... it's all folk tradition. You don't go to school for this, but you're actually studying your whole life. By the time you're in your early 20s or late teens, you're one of the best musicians or singers in town. It's just a fact, this town is full of great singers and players who have all learned from this folk tradition that goes way back."
And the tradition of gospel certainly moves the young singers in the Spiritual Tones. "When I'm out singing, it just does something to me. It makes my bones quiver," laughs Shawn Winston. "I just really love it."
The Milwaukee Gospel Jubilee is Friday, February 2 at 7:30 pm at the Turner Hall Ballroom.