Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
July 29, 1995
Gospel Group to Perform at the Library of Congress
The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will present the Inspirational Singers performing quartet-style gospel music from the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 17, from noon to 1 p.m. on the west front steps of the Jefferson Building, First and Independence Ave. S.E. The event is free and open to the public. The rain location is the Mumford Room, sixth floor, Madison Building.
William Berkeley, Richard Goldsmith, and John Hart of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church founded the Inspirational Singers in 1948 to "sing God's praises." Though they began as a trio, today they consist of 11 members: Steven Austin, 2nd tenor; William Berkeley, lead; E. J. Birks, lead; Edison Hairston, bass/baritone; James Hopkins, 1st tenor; Leroy Linsky, bass/baritone; Joseph Martin, pianist; Alexander Pitcher, 1st tenor; Garland Powell, bass/baritone; Jefferson Powell, 2nd tenor; and Arthur Robinson, bass/baritone.
William Berkeley, spokesman for the group, says that although they sing in four-part harmony, they don't consider themselves a quartet. Quartet style, he explains, "has more bump to it. It has more bump and leg slapping, which we don't have." Instead, he continues, the group borrows from quartet and choir styles. Their performance style is smooth and melodic like that of the jubilee or early gospel ensembles.
Throughout its history the Inspirational Singers have performed extensively in the Eastern United States, sometimes performing in as many as three venues in a day. They plan each performance, carefully tailoring their repertoire to address the needs of their audience. Mr. Berkeley compares this to a preacher's preparation of his service. "The preacher plans to satisfy his whole congregation not just one segment, because [he] wants everybody to come back next Sunday."
Mr. Berkeley says the size of his audience is irrelevant. His group has performed for everything from large crowds to a small audience consisting of a minister, her daughter, and a cat. In the end, he states, "All we want to do is go and minister and hope that the Lord will be satisfied."
The concert is part of a series of free Neptune Plaza Concerts that have been presented by the American Folklife Center on the steps of the Library of Congress since 1977. More than 120 concerts have been presented to an audience composed of tourists, school groups, congressional staff, foreign visitors, local residents, and occasionally, members of Congress. The concerts have been broadcast on WAMU-FM since 1988.
From its inception, the series has emphasized the cultural diversity of the American musical tradition, from Cambodian ballet and black blues artists to Native American dancers and Spanish flamenco. The American Folklife Center was created by the American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976. The purpose of the Center is to "preserve and present" American folklife through programs of research, field documentation, archival preservation, exhibition, publication, professional training, and live performance.
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