Last night we caught a concert by the Toronto Mass Choir that was also a fundraiser for Haiti. It’s the second time we’ve seen them, but only the third time in our lives we’ve been exposed to the volume, the energy and the passion that goes into any kind of mass choir (read: black gospel choir) concert. This is the music of the redeemed.
Director Karen Burke — who is, no kidding, a Professor of Music at Toronto’s York University with a job description that includes gospel — mentioned an event she’s putting together in Toronto in February titled “The Evolution of Gospel Music.” This was featured nationally on CBC-Radio many months back, and presented as a one night stage show. This time they’re doing it for two nights; introducing the birth of the spirituals and artists such as Tommy Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson.
Then she said something profound, to the effect that many people involved in the creation of Christian music today, “don’t know about anything that happened before 1990.”
That’s too bad. I think it’s incumbent upon anyone who is leading worship today to know something about their roots. (Here’s my mini-history if you want to catch up in a hurry.) Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can pretend to do this without knowing where it’s all coming from, anymore than a pastor can lead a church without some minimal knowledge of church history.
I don’t know how much money was raised last night — they never said — but I know that this music is the tonic for tough times. Haiti was mentioned several times, but the message was clear that God saw the earthquake and its aftermath and He is still sovereign.
This is the kind of music that will lift your spirits on days that minimalistic two-minor-chord worship songs aren’t cutting it.