Crazy name, crazy gal!
Subject: Queen Esther Marrow (some Dylan content) From: (email@example.com) Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 10:12:03 GMT Hello All: Thought I would post this as I was busy during the summer and didn't have the chance to do so. The following is courtesy of the Montreal Gazette. May I also say that Queen Esther Marrow is a class act, and a beautiful lady. I could listen to her sing for hours on end. A phenomenal show it was indeed.Tuesday 7 July 1998Thought some of you may be interested in this. Blessings, Ann McEntee
Queen Esther makes believersMark Lepage The Montreal Gazette Tonight, when a congregation of at least 100,000 raises its faces from the concrete canyon of Ste. Catherine St., it will look toward the Harlem Gospel Singers and their leader, Queen Esther Marrow. She will lead the vocalists through the ecstatic movements of redemption, salvation, and inspired perspiration that is Afro-American spiritual music. The jazz festival will get religion. Given the automatic enthusiasm of the annual outdoor revival, Queen Esther Marrow will have three city-blocks of willing converts. The way she describes it, the crowd would be won over no matter how constrained or diffident.
'They then come to life'"If they're feeling uptight, we can't be uptight," she says from her home in Amityville, Long Island. "If they see we're relaxed and we're loose, and we're treating them as if they were in our living room, they then come to life." You take them home; and if you are the gospel singer, you take your home, the church, with you. Since 1992, Queen Esther Marrow's churches have been the concert stages of Europe, where her Harlem Gospel Singers are a major draw all over the mainland. The sense of place is portable, something she learned in someone else's living room three decades ago. In 1965, summoned by Duke Ellington, she stood in the foyer as one of the century's musical titans signaled composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn to take her through How Great Thou Art on the piano. Ellington had heard of Marrow through a friend of her manager, and needing a gospel singer to reprise Mahalia Jackson's vocals in the Sacred Concert in San Francisco, called her to audition.
Not a bad image, that: a Duke auditioning a Queen.Queen Esther Marrow's regal name is real, chosen by her parents from the Old Testament book. Ellington took her to New York, then to Europe, and into the secular music world. In three decades since, Marrow has brought the spirit everywhere it needed to be. She has sung to 300,000 and the Pope in Bologna. She has toured with Bob Dylan ('85-'87), and sung to the muddied masses at Farm Aid. She has bested the forces of wickedness as Auntie Em in a production of The Wiz. In Europe, crowds continue to come, "and each year it seems like we're taking on new countries." There is talk of Greece, Australia and Japan. Even the Germans were freed from their reserve. "They sit and look at you at first, and when they hear the music for a while, they start tappin' their foot. And the next thing you know, it's like a rock concert." It is, although the epiphany of the gospel show isn't a take-it-or-leave-it by-product of the groove and the excitement as it would be at, say, the Smashing Pumpkins or Hanson. Here, it's the whole point. The rock connection further wavers when I attempt a link between exertion and spiritual ecstacy, the sweating-toward-salvation image of gospel. "You don't have to get yourself into a state in order to get across to the audience," she says. "You're singing about God, you're dealing with how you feel about God, you're even telling some kind of story within the songs about what God has done, what he will do. The spirit of God gets in you. So it's not where you work yourself up. When the spirit is in you, automatically you're going to respond. It's like electricity." She talks about the church as a constant presence in the black community, despite the oft-quoted statistics of declining (probably white) religious observance.
Church Is a Way of Life"In the black community, that's a way of life, going to church." When not touring, she sings in the United House of Prayer for All People in Jamaica, Queens, when she can't get to the mother house at 125th and 8th Ave. in Harlem. And when she can't get thereƒ "When you wanna talk with God, that's where you have your church." Spirituality is a moveable house, built on the invisible foundations of the soul. And after all, it is named Sainte Catherine St. Everything begins to coalesce, the interconnectedness of all things. As we're speaking, the tinkling of bells is heard in the background. A revival in the living room? "That's the ice-cream truck" she laughs from the heart of suburbia. - Queen Esther Morrow and the Harlem Gospel Singers perform a free concert for a crowd expected to be as large as 100,000 people tonight. The concert will be shown on six large screens whose locations are shown in the map to the right of this story. The concert starts at 9:30 p.m. and takes place at the Scene Du Maurier, at the southeast corner of Ste. Catherine and Jeanne Mance Sts. For more information, please call Info Jazz Bell, 871-1881.
Queen Esther Morrow sang for the Pope at the same concert as Bob Dylan in Bologna, Italy, September 27, 1997.