VILNIUS - Few people in the Baltics know a thing about gospel, yet almost everyone knows the Harlem Gospel Choir. Indeed, the group is known world-wide, having toured the globe for 20 years with their spirit-lifting music. Founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, the choir was inspired by a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem.
Determined to create a black choir to travel the country singing Christian messages of love, peace and harmony, Bailey sought out some of Harlem's most talented gospel singers. Little did he know that one day the choir's music would span the globe.
As part of its Christian ambition, the Harlem Gospel Choir strives to make the world a more loving and peaceful place. Indeed, the choir has earned a reputation for donating a generous percentage of ticket earnings to various philanthropies. And the group's dynamic music has opened up an international sea of eyes to African-American culture.
According to the choir's Web site, the theme of every performance is "bringing people and nations together" and, of course, "giving something back." And there are few better ways to do this than through the universal language of music.
Gospel originated in the early 1930s in America. In many respects it is closely related to the blues, inasmuch as both genres were a unique means of expression for black people in a deeply divided society. But where the blues revels in a sense of hopelessness, gospel music is extraordinarily uplifting and exhilarating. Spontaneous, vibrant and almost hypnotic, it's hard not to like gospel. At its best the music is infectiously joyful, at its worst something to confusedly awe over.
This year, the Harlem Gospel Choir has already had the honor of performing with the alternative Grammy-winning band the Gorillaz. The choir has also enjoyed four never-to-be-repeated concerts at the Apollo Theater in Harlem; with Avril Lavigne; with Yolanda Adams; with Cindy Lauper; and with Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra.
And to cap off 2006, the dynamic choir will be singing its way through the Baltics on its "God Bless the Children" world tour. There's no better way to celebrate the holidays than among voices of joy.
Harlem Gospel Choir
Dec. 23 's Zveju Hall, Klaipeda
Dec. 24 's VDU Hall, Kaunas
Dec. 26 's Utenos Arena, Vilnius
More info: www.bilietai.lt