“Who are the best-known African American voices in Adventist church music?
“Some may answer with selections from among today’s well-known songsters: Wintley Phipps, Charles Haugabrooks, the Aeolians. But there is also a good case to be made for names not so well known, their music sung by saints from week to week and year to year in a thousand congregations across the breadth of our world church: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior,” “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” “Give Me Jesus.” Isn’t it worth our while to remember who these individuals are? Their contributions to the spiritual growth and grounding of generations of Adventists and other Christians deserve more than the casual rendition of their songs. These composers and arrangers deserve our intelligent appreciation.
“Charles Lee Brooks (1923-1989), born in Wilson, North Carolina, and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, began singing at age 4. Though keenly interested in classical music, Brooks is best remembered by Adventists as a singer in evangelistic meetings. As a personal memory, I was fortunate to serve as his teenaged accompanist during a memorable evangelistic series by E. E. Cleveland labeled the ‘Trinidad Triumph.’ Later, as an associate in the General Conference Secretariat, Brooks established the Office of Church Music and became its chair. He served as chair of the Church Hymnal Committee.”
A project of North Carolina Arts Council and local partners, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina (2013) is a 218-page insider’s guide to the music traditions of an eight-county region. Drawn largely from interviews with living musicians and interspersed with vivid photographs and up-close vignettes, the book devotes thirty pages to Wilson County’s rich musical history, both sacred and secular. Highlights include the role of Reid Street Community Center (and tobacco warehouses) as music venues, shape note singing and hymn lining, and influential music teachers. The book suggests travel routes for each section and includes a 17-track CD of eastern North Carolina recordings.