|In recent years gospel music has moved into the mainstream of our music
culture in unprecedented ways. Thanks to artists like Kirk Franklin, Yolanda
Adams, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin and countless others, you will just as readily hear songs of
praise in a club mixed in with all the other more typical bump and grind
music. But the fact is gospel music/spirituals have been inextricably linked
to cultures of African people in the Diaspora. And it continues to serve the
same purpose, it uplifts the heart and soothes the soul.|
Gospel music has always been a major part of Samuel "Eddie" Cromwell's life
even before he taught himself to play the piano and organ. While he is quick
to admit that he will never lead a song, Cromwell has been able to successful
lead a variety of choirs in the metropolitan area. For four years he was the
director of the EC Mass Choir as well as St Gabriel's Gospel Choir, Shiloh
Youth Choir and Male Chorus and others.
"It seems like I've lead a choir pretty much all may life," said Cromwell.
"But one day I realized that I never had a small group to call my own. So I
called a couple of my close friends who I knew loved the Lord and could sing
and introduced the idea to them." They liked his idea and very quickly the
Hyattsville native had his group of 12 by March 2000. They are: Tedra Long,
Kim Patterson, Dorothy Camp, Summer Scott, Bonita Spurgeon, Cynthia Tinsley,
Verda Newton, Terrance McMillian, Peter Vanderberg and Kareen Williams.
Members range in age from 22 to 40-something and come from a variety of
For a while this "no name" group was making a "name" for itself throughout
the area. When a member of the group finally suggested the name "Grace,"
Cromwell said it instantly resonated with him and other members of the group.
"That name clicked with me because I know I've been through my trials and
tribulations but because of God's Grace I was able to over them and I'm still
overcoming them. If it wasn't for His Grace I wouldn't be here. So that why I
choose that name to identify this musical family."
Moving from a performing group to a recording group has come very quickly for
Grace. "I've always had it in the back of my mind; I've always wanted to
record," said Cromwell. "I tried to do that with a choir before but because
of a range of issues that didn't work out but I still wanted that opportunity
to try again."
When Jackie Smith became the manager for the group she asked Cromwell about
his goals for the group and he told her about the ambition to record. But
without money, the cost of recording made it prohibitive. "I wouldn't know
where to begin to raise the funds," Cromwell admitted. He said they were
extremely blessed when Smith told him to focus on the music and the group and
let her get them the money. Their partnership has worked so well that
Cromwell says he now heartily recommends that all performers - soloists,
groups or choirs - find a manager that knows what they are doing and
understands your objectives. You can then comfortable delegate to them those
important responsibilities so that you can focus on your creative agenda, he
Together Cromwell and Smith worked out a timeline for the group to produce
two original songs for a demo-tape. This was to be their calling card. The
response to those two songs was overwhelming and far-reaching, even getting
strong airplay as far away as France. With a positive wind beneath their
wings the group was spurred on to complete the self-titled 10-track CD on
their independent label Grace Work. Most of the material was written my
Cromwell with contributions by a talented group of friends he said.
Now that the CD is complete the group must now tackle the challenge of
distribution. Cromwell explained that they will take advantage of internet
marketing and sales and will gladly use other "guerilla" tactics like
"selling out of their car trunks" and explore other opportunities that come
Like all recording artists, Grace will also hit the road to bring the music
to the people. It's an often used method of operation because it gives the
performer an opportunity to do just that, perform. In the process it
introduces the new material to a wider audience and this typically translates
into increased record sales. But Cromwell says their motivation transcends
material gain and is focused on "sharing the message of God's Grace" with
audiences. He said the experience will also allow the group to learn and
grow. They begin their tour this September in Detroit, MI with plans also in
place for international dates in France and England in December/January.
Area lovers of gospel music can catch Grace in action on May 5 at 6 p.m. at
Shiloh Baptist Church (9th & P Streets, NW Washington, D.C.). This FREE show
will officially launch the CD's release. Joining Grace will be the Capital
Hill Mass Choir and the female quartet Promises. For more information about
Grace, their new release and performances call 301-335-9329.