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June 8, 1994

Kings of Harmony To Perform

The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will present the Kings of Harmony Gospel Brass Band in the July concert of the Neptune Plaza Concert Series Thursday, July 21, noon - 1 p.m. on the West front steps of the Jefferson Building directly across from the U.S. Capitol. The concert is free and open to the public and accessible by Metro (one block north of Capitol South station on the Orange and Blue lines). The concert will be broadcast at a later date on WAMU 88.5 FM on the Dick Spottswood Show. The rain location is the Mumford Room, 6th floor, Madison Building.

The Kings of Harmony is the premiere brass band at "God's White House," the headquarters church of the United House of Prayer for All People located in downtown Washington, D.C. The gospel brass band tradition is unique to this denomination. It was introduced into services by charismatic church founder Bishop Charles M. "Sweet Daddy" Grace. Grace established his first congregation in 1919 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, with an emphasis on the direct, physical experience of the spirit.

From the 1920s onward, as the church spread rapidly throughout the South, Grace began using brass instruments as the centerpiece of his all-day all-night services. By the 1960s, trombones became the instrument of choice for House of Prayer bands, and groups were expanded to create a fuller more multilayered sound in the vein of large gospel choirs. The Kings of Harmony was formed during this period and Norvus Miller emerged as the group's leader.

Norvus "Butch Littlejohn" Miller Sr., who died May 1, 1994, described this music as "inspirational gospel whose purpose is to edify and glorify the Lord." The group is comprised of 16 musicians, including two of Miller's sons, one of whom now leads the band. The brothers play first and second lead trombones. Instruments include three lead trombones (with two playing at a time), two sets of "run" horns--two trombones playing harmony parts, background trombones that simulate the body of the choir, sousaphone, baritone horn, and a percussion section with bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals. The instrumental "voices" are arranged in three- and four-part harmonies with the lead horns playing on top of the run horns. The music builds slowly through songs to a sustained crescendo known as "thundering," with lead players improvising and blowing with great intensity.

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PR 94-103
ISSN 0731-3527

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