Singing News, a division of Salem Media Group, recently created a unique collaboration opportunity for two 2021 GRAMMY® nominated artists in the Best Roots Gospel Album category.
“After a conversation with Justin Fratt at the Gospel Music Association about the continuation of the ‘Carry the Change’ theme from last year’s Dove Awards, I was inspired to see if the two groups would like to work together,” said Randy Maricle, Director of Publishing Operations. “I reached out to the PR teams and labels of The Erwins and the Fisk Jubilee Singers® to see if they were willing to collaborate on each other’s songs for a special digital event for Singing News. Both groups were very excited about the idea,” he continued. Carry the Change celebrates diversity and promotes unity in Gospel music.
The famed Fisk Jubilee Singers® (Curb|Word Records), a Fisk University ensemble founded in 1871 that has preserved the American musical tradition of Negro spirituals, welcomed The Erwins, a Texas-based Dove Award winning Southern Gospel group represented by StowTown Records, to the University’s historic campus in Nashville for an evening of music and friendship. Under the direction Dr. Paul Kwami, the artists recorded music from both groups’ repertoires: “Watch and See,” an Erwins radio single co-written by group member Kris Erwin and aired on the Singing News Radio Network, and “Wade in the Water,” a traditional Negro spiritual used by Harriet Tubman and other slaves to communicate during their struggle for freedom.
“As I listened to the song, ‘Watch and See,’ the lyrics got my attention. The words reminded me of God’s goodness to us, and therefore, our responsibility to expect Him to fulfil His promises,” Kwami stated. “I selected ‘Wade in the Water’ because of its authentic representation of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ repertoire, which I thought would bring a wonderful experience to both ensembles. The collaboration ended with all of us expecting God to do for us and through us, that which pleases Him,” he continued.
“I’ve heard the song ‘Wade in the Water,’ but never would have dreamed that we’d have the opportunity to sing it with the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” vocalist Katie Erwin said. “It’s definitely more traditional than anything we typically sing but I loved the challenge! It was such an honor and unforgettable experience.”
Singing News Media Strategist Jaime Vaughn reflected on the event. “The opportunity to bring together two amazing vocal groups that most likely would never have had the chance to collaborate is an opportunity Singing News jumped at and then put the wheels in motion. In the moment of being in the room and hearing these phenomenal voices come together with groups of different genres was a career highlight. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the room. You could feel God in that moment,” she said.
Vaughn continued: “Music tends to be put in tiny boxes. In Christian music, there is Contemporary, Southern Gospel, and Black Gospel, to name a few. People usually stick to the music they like best with little exploration. In this moment of bringing together a top Southern Gospel group and a legacy faith group, I believe that we were able to show that God has given us universal harmony. Every one of these performers showed their love of Christ so beautifully in that moment. This is when labels can fall away and we are just people worshiping.”
Kwami and Katie Erwin concurred: “The collaboration of the Fisk Jubilee Singers® and The Erwins was an amazing spiritual and musical experience,” Kwami said. Erwin commented, “It was so inspiring being surrounded by so much talent. When the cameras weren’t recording, we were cheering each other on and helping each other out on questionable parts of the songs. It was as if we all had known each other for several years.”
Recordings from this event can be viewed on Singing News’ website and social media platforms.