Merry Christmas from Two of New York's Finest Gospel Choirs

Merry Christmas from Two of New York's Finest Gospel Choirs

Founded in the 1970's with nine original members, today the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has 270 members, led under the direction of Carol Cymbala. With numerous recordings and awards to its name—including six Grammy's—in 2012, the choir performed at the inauguration of President Barak Obama. For more information about the choir's history and its schedule of performances, visit: http://www.brooklyntabernacle.org/the-choir

Founded in the 1970's with nine original members, today the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has 270 members, led under the direction of Carol Cymbala. With numerous recordings and awards to its name—including six Grammy's—in 2012, the choir performed at the inauguration of President Barak Obama. For more information about the choir's history and its schedule of performances, visit: http://www.brooklyntabernacle.org/the-choir

History lesson. The word gospel comes to us from the Old English "godspel," which literally translates as "good story." The literary and oral tradition of the gospel's in Christianity—an account of the life and death of Jesus, as told by four apostles—only became synonymous with the musical genre we know of today in 1874 with the publication of Philip Bless's "Gospel Songs." While most associate the origins of Gospel music with the American South, New York City has a longstanding history with the tradition, including some of today's most well-known choirs. To celebrate the holiday season and welcome the New Year, we here at V wanted to shine a spotlight on two of New York's finest choirs which, in their own way, are dedicated to spreading the good word.

Perhaps one of New York's best-known venues for gospel and choir music, the Abyssinian Baptist Church (located at 132 West 138th Street) was founded in 1808 and is the third oldest Baptist church in America. Under the guidance of Pastor Calvin O. Butts, the church has been a progressive force in the Harlem community and was an early advocate in the fight for the recognition and support of those affected by HIV/AIDS. Music has played an integral role in the church's long history—Nat King Cole married his wife Maria Cole there in 1948—and it continues to be a cornerstone of its ministry today.

For those interested in attending a performance, the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir performs at 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM during its Sunday Worship Services. All performances are open to the public.

Founded in 1847 as the Central Presbyterian Church, today's Brooklyn Tabernacle (located at 17 Smith Street at the Fulton Mall) is a non-denominational house of worship that, since 1971, has been lead by Pastor Jim Cymbala and his wife, Carol, who is also the director of the Tabernacle's choir. With modest beginnings—in 1971 the choir had only nine members—the choir today has 270 members, many of who have no formal musical training. With Mrs. Cymbala as a driving force, the choir has gone on to record multiple albums—for which it has received six Grammy Awards—and, in 2012, performed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" during President Barak Obaman's second inauguration.

For those interested in attending a performance, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir performs three times during its Sunday Worship Services, at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, and 1:00 PM. All performances are open to the public.

The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir. Photographed by David La Spina

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