You won’t hear anything like it anywhere else. The Voices of El Shaddai create a sound so much their own and so characteristic of the authentic, “been-ya” Lowcountry that those of us who arrived in recent decades – we “come-ya” people – are blessed that we ever heard it at all. Please don’t miss it. The voices of the Gullah culture are a precious resource in these parts.
On August 8 The Voices of El Shaddai will celebrate 20 years of performance, and launch their second CD, on the stage of the Elizabeth Wallace Theatre at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
Longtime manager and one of the founders, Gail Ragland, shared that The Voices began with the idea that some of the outstanding singers from Beaufort County churches would enjoy the chance to do more. From the start, The Voices of El Shaddai was a kind of all-star choir, drawing to it the singers who just couldn’t sing enough on Sundays, who have more joy to share than one day can contain.
The Voices have a booking policy based as much on joy as their performance, “If you want us, we’ll come.” This has led the lineup of 20 – 25 singers as far afield as Brooklyn, New York and the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Their repertoire spans traditional spirituals and contemporary gospel. Asked the difference, Gail says, “Gospel is what we got when spirituals met the blues – and went to the clubs.” Spirituals were originally a capella.
Percussion and instrumental accompaniment came as the singers left
bondage behind. This congregation of uplifting spirituals, soulful blues and visceral rhythms will touch you, no matter who you are or where you’re from. You can’t hold back, you can’t be sad – and you can’t hold still.
The Voices of El Shaddai transcends geographic as well as musical boundaries. The first members came from choirs in Bluffton as well as Hilton Head Island. Then singers from churches all over the area joined in. So towns and churches joined hands in the sound.
And that sound is very much alive. The Voices’ new CD puts traditional songs like “Swing Low” and “Down By The Riverside” together with four original compositions, including “Witness” and “Joy For My Journey.”
“Joy For My Journey” beautifully illustrates the here-and-now life of spiritual music. As Gail’s mother was driving back to their ancestral home in Aiken, the song just came to her behind the wheel.
Music that was born for joy. A choir that was founded on the idea that the singers’ joy couldn’t fit into just one day. The Voices Of El Shaddai carry on a tradition and share a gift you will never forget. Do see them whenever and wherever you can.
Like August 8 at the Arts Center!