Chicago’s Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir honors its own traditions with its first album release in two decades

Legacy, the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir’s first release in 20 years, is a joyous collection of gospel songs and hymns, including many from the Chicago group’s original repertory. Dedicated to Christian Tabernacle’s founder, Pastor Maceo Woods, who died in January 2020, Legacy evokes the church’s 60-plus-year history of gospel supremacy with its old-school playlist, its seasoned personnel, and its sonic style. It features the church’s newly installed leader, Pastor DeAndre Patterson, who’s not only an accomplished singer, musician, and emcee but also Woods’s godson. Patterson has a passion for time-honored gospel that makes him the ideal inheritor of Woods’s musical mantle.

Woods was already a respected musician and choir director when, at age 27, he started the Christian Tabernacle Church in a rehabbed theater on Chicago’s south side in 1959. From the 1960s on, Woods and his Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir channeled classic and new gospel through a composite of jazz, rock, and soul without ever sacrificing their ecclesiastical foundation in service to the beat. Alongside the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day,” Christian Tabernacle’s 1969 cover of “Hello Sunshine” (written by Ronald Miller and Curtis Ousley, aka King Curtis, and first recorded in 1968 by Wilson Pickett) announced the arrival of contemporary gospel music. Originally released on a local custom label and then by Stax Records’ Volt subsidiary, “Hello Sunshine” is included on Legacy in a new version as a bonus track.

Other nods to the past include “If It Had Not Been,” sung in a craggy but effective alto by longtime Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir member Maggie Bell Childs, who led the song on the choir’s 1981 album Bringing in the Sheaves. Another choir alumnus, Richard Jackson, delivers on “It’s Good to Know.” The full-throated choir is supported by a spirited rhythm section anchored by keyboardist Cliff Dubose, guitarist Joey Woolfalk, and bass player Richard Gibbs. If the busy arrangement for “Wings of a Dove” obscures some of the song’s beauty, selections such as “Saved and Sanctified” and “Wait on Jesus,” written for the choir in 1972 by the late Elder George Jordan, charge forward like an elevated train without brakes.

Legacy by the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir with Pastor DeAndre is available through the church at (773) 548-2500.

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