Ready to hear some powerhouse singers?
On Sunday, May 15, One New Mexico Gospel is hosting a concert featuring hometown gospel singer Toni Morgan alongside special guest artist Aretha Harden from Las Vegas, Nevada.
The concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle Blvd. NE, and it will be free and open to the public.
“Music is a great way to bring people together, being the universal language,” said Cathryn McGill, founder and director of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council. “With gospel music being such a deep and abiding tradition in the Black communities, we thought it would be really great to do and it has certainly been that for us for the past.”
Also headlining the event is Aleena Sedillo and Pat Brown, and the four women will be in concert along with an interfaith choir of singers from churches around the city.
“We initially were working with another group to bring in to town and then pivoted and decided to feature these powerhouse musicians,” McGill said.”Toni mentioned Aretha and asked if her friend could come in and it just seemed very synergistic in a good way.”
Morgan moved to New Mexico from Colorado in 2013.
“Toni has been a background vocalist, she traveled the world with Gladys Knight for a number of years so when she was in Vegas, she made a lot of other performing artists and has maintained friendships,” McGill said.
Traveling with Knight helped Morgan learn instrumental tips about the industry.
“I think the most two important things that I learned from Gladys is that they are watching you and you may think because you’re not out in the front, that people are not paying attention to you,” Morgan said. “It’s always good to know your music to know what you’re doing, because there’s always somebody who focuses right on you.”
The Empress of Soul also gave her another important note for her career.
“The other thing that she really taught me was that in the music industry a lot of times is people who get to use a lot of instruments and a lot of things to enhance their music,” Morgan said. “What she taught me is that you always have to know your music, practice and be a perfectionist at what you do.”
To Morgan, singing gospel is the world to her.
“It is not just about singing for me and I hope it is the goal for all of us that we do want to offer Christ to people,” Morgan said. “We want people to come out and of course have a good time and be part of the community and be unified but we also want to introduce those who don’t know about the community and celebrate you know the life that they have with Christ.”
Morgan also likes to user her voice to bring those together.
“We don’t want people to get the misconception that because we sing gospel, it’s because we Christians feel like we’re these perfect people, because we’re probably the most imperfect people,” Morgan said. “We just want to share through our music.”
Both Morgan and Harden have noticed the changes in a genre they have loved for so long.
“There has been a lot of changes in the music and my concern is I just don’t want the music to lose the goal of saving souls,” Morgan said.
For Harden, gospel has evolved a lot during the years.
“At this point it is almost heavy metal, it went from traditional gospel to jazz to blues,” Harden said. “It is everything at this point the gospel is the foundation of all of it.”
Though many use gospel for togetherness, it is rooted in hardship.
“The origins of gospel come from our ancestors,” McGill said. “John Newton, who is credited with writing ‘Amazing Grace,’ got that song from looking in the eyes of the enslaved people that he was carrying on his ship.”
While “Amazing Grace” can be a depressing song, its power and importance is limitless, McGill said.
“If you listen to ‘Amazing Grace’ and read the history, the pentatonic scale that he’s using was that of a European tradition, he got from listening to the songs that were coming over with the enslaved people from West Africa,” McGill said.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15
WHERE: First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, 3701 Carlisle Blvd. NE
HOW MUCH: Free to attend, tickets at nmblc.org