As Gospel music is sung in churches, schools and performance venues across the United States as well as abroad, two cities bring musicians and singers together to celebrate the legacy and rich history of the Father of Gospel Music, Professor Thomas A. Dorsey.
Thomas A. Dorsey was born on July 1, 1899 in Villa Rica, Georgia. He developed a reputation as a Blues songwriter and pianist working with Ma Rainey and others before dedicating his life and music to the service of the Lord and the uplift of mankind. Professor Dorsey’s keen ability to merge the secular rhythm and melody with the sacred lyrics and verses resulted in a new musical expression called Gospel music. Composing over 400 compositions, the musical works of Thomas Dorsey would be covered by some of the greatest musicians of our time including Elvis Presley (Peace In The Valley) as well as serve as the anchor of the civil rights movement. His most widely recognized composition, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, popularized by Mahalia Jackson was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With a desire to give songwriters an outlet for creative expression and an opportunity to share their songs with others, Dorsey founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in 1933 and held its first convention in Chicago, Illinois. The life of Professor Dorsey was immortalized in the documentary, Say Amen Somebody.
The Thomas A. Dorsey Birthplace and Gospel Heritage Festival, now in its 25th year celebrates the Dorsey legacy with 3 days of music in the city that is credited with being the birth home of Coca Cola and the Father of Gospel Music. “It is a great joy and an incredible honor to pay homage to musical contributions of Thomas A. Dorsey, “The Father of Gospel Music,” in and near the settings where he was born and nurtured his talent,” says Eric Ayers, Director of the Thomas A Dorsey Birthplace Choir. The festival explores and preserves the musical traditions in which he created. The three-day musical gathering convenes June 28th through June 30th in Villa Rica at various locations including the Mt. Prospect Baptist Church where the Dorsey family were members as well as The Mill Amphitheater in Downtown Villa Rica.
In Chicago, where Dr. Dorsey lived for over 50 years, the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church will serve as the site for the Dorsey Legacy Celebration and Gospel Extravaganza on Sunday, July 14th where Chicago area choirs, local and international Gospel artists will share in the musical tributes. NCGCC President Dr. Marabeth Gentry will be on hand for the Chicago celebration and the Dorsey Celebration Mass Choir of The Historic Thomas A Dorsey Chicago Gospel Choral Union will be one of many special guests.