Cleveland Gospel Hero

Gospel Music in Cleveland

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Join musicians, scholars, and preachers to discuss the impact of the Stokes brothers and gospel music on Cleveland.

Cleveland has a rich gospel music history, from Wings Over Jordan Choir, the first professional, touring black choir in the United States, to the Womack brothers and beyond. The Stokes brothers cultivated a strong, social gospel during a tumultuous time in our city's history. Join musicians, scholars, historians, and preachers in a lively discussion about Cleveland’s gospel history and the Stokes brothers’ musical and spiritual connection. Moderated by Johnny Parker and featuring Helen Turner Thompson, Lafayette Carthon, and Afi Scruggs.

John Parker was introduced to music through his mother, a classically trained pianist, at the age of 5 and began playing drums at church at age 8 and later bass at 17. Parker is an ordained minister with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and serves as the musical director for Youth for Holiness. Parker has spent 20 years as a session and live bassist and is a songwriter, composer, arranger, and publisher. He co-founded The Bassmint Live (producers of live Christian friendly entertainment) and is a consultant and community organizer for The Cleveland Orchestra's Hough Community Chorus. He most recently was a co-producer  for "Spirit of the Groove" (Jazz meets Gospel) supported by Tri-C JazzFest and serves as the co-artistic director for the Stokes Legacy Commemoration.

Helen Turner-Thompson knows African-American gospel like no other local. A lifelong Clevelander celebrating her 84th birthday this month, Turner-Thompson saw gospel transition from Sunday worship to a genre performed throughout the country. From her works in the Library of Congress such as "There is a Place on the Battlefield for Me" to her transcriptions of African-American sheet music found at Emory University, Turner-Thompson has played an instrumental role in preserving black gospel music. Since 1993, she has worked as director of music at Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, where she oversees a gospel choir and a male chorus.

Nationally acclaimed keyboardist, Lafayette Carthon, is Founder of Carthon Conservatory--Cleveland's 'YMCA of music" serving nearly 1000 students weekly. He is the 2017 exclusive artist for the world famous gospel brunch at the House of Blues Cleveland. His latest book, Lafayette Carthon Musician's Handbook, chronicles the music and life lessons he honed while working with Michael Jackson, Donnie McClurkin, Celine Dion, R-Kelly, Marvin Winans, Mary J. Blige, and many others. An Oberlin and Moody College alumnus, Mr. Carthon now serves as Senior Pastor of Faith Church of Glenville in Cleveland, Ohio.

Afi Scruggs, started playing gospel at 16 in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. She didn't learn at church; her church forbade the music. Instead she took lessons. But she really learned the genre in Chicago, where she played piano for a small church throughout college. Presently, she's the bass player at Progressive Evangelistic Missionary Baptist Church, in Fairfax.. She spent seven years in the same capacity for Antioch Baptist Church. One of the few female bassists here in Cleveland, Scruggs has laid down the low end for some of the city’s finest musicians including blues harpist Wallace Coleman; guitarist Michael J Calhoun, founding member of the Grammy-winning Dazz Band; as well as guitarists Charlie Christopherson and Butch Armstrong. She played with the Park Brothers blues band as the opening band for national blues guitarist Samantha Fish.

This is in partnership with Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future, which is a yearlong, community-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes' election as mayor of Cleveland. Mayor Stokes and his brother, Congressman Louis Stokes, played key roles in the advancement of the city and the nation through the civil rights movement and beyond. In many ways, Cleveland's current national and international recognition owes a debt of thanks for their accomplishments.

Free with RSVP

Rsvp information available on September 15.


“The Mayor and His People”: a tribute to Carl Stokes

Featuring the Stokes Legacy Jazz Orchestra with Dominick Farinacci, Funkyard X, All-City Choir with Jonny Parker and special guests Melonie Daniels & Geoffrey Golden
When: Sunday, October 22 at 7PM
Where: Maltz Performing Arts Center
FREE! Find out more information here.