Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Press Kit
Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Press Kit
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir weaves together a family of more than 55 singers from a wide range of faiths, races, and cultures-- joined in the mission to inspire joy and unity in all people through Negro spirituals and black gospel music. The choir and its dynamic director, Terrance Kelly, have captivated audiences across the world, from Israel to Norway to Australia to the Deep South, but they always stay true to their Oakland roots. No matter the venue, whether it’s the Paramount Theatre, San Quentin State Prison, Mercy Retirement Center, or even a small church in Selma, Alabama, the choir sings with the same passion and precision. When choir members hold hands in a circle before each show, they call out their wishes to send joy, love, and hope to everyone in attendance. And when the choir starts singing, audiences can’t help but jump to their feet, lift their hands, and allow the glory of the music to uplift them.
Founded in 1986, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir emerged from a gospel music workshop led by Terrance Kelly at Living Jazz’s Jazz Camp West. Since then, the award-winning choir has performed with a variety of esteemed musicians, such as the San Francisco Symphony; Vanessa Williams; CeCe Winans; Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel; the Five Blind Boys of Alabama; and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The choir also appears on Grammy-winning albums by Linda Ronstadt, MC Hammer, Tramaine Hawkins, and others.
Listen & Watch
Listen & Watch
Electric Mayhem Band
San Francisco Symphony
Duke Ellington Orchestra
Oakland East Bay Symphony
Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
The Five Blind Boys of Alabama
The Choir has also received awards and recognition from city, state and federal agencies, the J.C. Penney Awards Program, and the Clorox Foundation Community Commitment Awards Program.
Artistic Director: Terrance Kelly
Artistic Director: Terrance Kelly
Terrance Kelly has been called everything from “a man of great passion and conviction” to a “demanding taskmaster” to “an absolute musical genius.” And to prove them all, he has garnered extensive credentials in both gospel and jazz music. His operatic range and jubilant emotion make him a popular soloist as well as an accomplished director, composer, and arranger. His credits include choral arrangements on albums by Linda Ronstadt and the Kronos Quartet and gospel arrangements of popular music for TV and video soundtracks. In addition, he wrote or arranged most of the music on each Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir album. Mr. Kelly received an Emmy Award in 1995 for his choral arrangement of OIGC’s KGO-TV public service announcement.
In 2005, he received the Local Heroes Award from KQED Television for his directorship of the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir and was also honored at the Gospel Music Awards. In 2013, he was awarded the Dr. Edwin Hawkins Excellence Award.
Mr. Kelly currently serves as Minister of Magnification at Oakland’s Imani Community Church. He has traveled as far as Australia and Israel to teach gospel music and, since 1982, has served as Gospel Choir Director for Jazz Camp West, hosted by Living Jazz. In addition to his other endeavors, he is a semi-regular member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.
His father, the late Ed Kelly, was an esteemed jazz and gospel pianist. His mother, the late Faye Kelly, was a gospel choir director and pianist.
Kamala Harris Campaign Launch Rally
Holiday Soul with Vanessa Williams and the San Francisco Symphony
Global Climate Action Summit
One Voice: The Story of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir World Premiere at Mill Valley Film Festival and concert at Sweetwater Music Hall
Performances at San Francisco Jail and Santa Rita Jail
Bay Area tour with renowned Norwegian choir SKRUK
Holiday Soul with CeCe Winans and the San Francisco Symphony
Lavender Pen Tour with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
International Interfaith Gospel Music Conference
Electric Mayhem Band Debut Performance at Outside Lands, San Francisco, CA
Celebrating David Bowie at the Regency Ballroom - San Francisco, CA
Performance at Mercy Retirement Home - Oakland, CA
Super Bowl Fan Plaza performance- Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Super Bowl City performances - San Francisco, CA
Bread & Roses performances - San Quentin Prison, SF County Jail, Crossroads Homeless Shelter
Nike Women’s Marathon - San Francisco, CA
50th Anniversary Celebration of Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA
Oakland A's Game - Oakland, CA
49th Annual Montreux Jazz Festival - Montreux, Switzerland
Molde Jazz Festival - Molde, Norway
Godthaabskirken - Copenhagen, Denmark
27th Annual Concord Music & Market Series - Concord, CA
East Lake Music Festival - Oakland, CA
Sing For America concert - Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
Barry Manilow concert - SAP Pavillion, San Jose, CA
Spirit Week - Sonoma State University - Green Music Center, Rohnert Park, CA
Fundraiser for the Dance Palace - Dance Palace, Point Reyes, CA
Holiday Concert at City Winery - Napa, CA
First Friday - Oakland, CA
In the Name of Love: Living Jazz MLK Tribute - Scottish Rite Center, Oakland, CA
Black History Month Celebration - Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, CA
Annual Free Spring Concert - Oakland, CA
Imani Community Church Annual Revival - Oakland, CA
Annual Holiday Concert - Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
Annual South Bay Holiday Concert - Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Mountain View, CA
Let Us Break Bread Together with the Oakland East Bay Symphony - Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
Christmas Eve at Slim’s - San Francisco, CA
2018 Macy's Christmas Tree Lighting - San Francisco, CA
2018 National Anthem - Golden State Warriors game, Oakland, CA
2017 National Anthem - Oakland A’s, Oakland, CA
2009 National Anthem - 49er's game, San Francisco, CA
2005 Recording Academy Governor’s Award tribute to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
2005 San Francisco’s Black & White Ball
2000 Israel Tour
1998 World Games Opening Festivities - Portland, Oregon
1997 Australia Tour
1994 Grace Cathedral Mass and sermon by South Africa’s Bishop Tutu
1990 Concert of Sacred Music with the Duke Ellington Orchestra
Oakland Coliseum Concert for Nelson Mandela
State of the World Forum, performing for Mikhail Gorbachev and many other global peace workers
Kelly is talking to a group that’s something of an anomaly when it comes to gospel choirs. This one is made up of black folks and brown folks and white folks. He’s talking to Baptists and Catholics, to Jews and agnostics, to Hindus and Wiccans.
“Lifestyles, backgrounds, races, creeds, likes, dislikes,” he says later, “we’re all mixed up.”
This year the choir celebrates a milestone. On Dec. 5, it will perform its 30th holiday concert. Three decades is an accomplishment for most any organization, but it’s especially important for a choir that many doubted would survive a year.
Kelly has a shaved head and a long goatee (sometimes he’ll twist it up and tuck it away). His ears are pierced, and the night of practice he wears a choir T-shirt. On the back it reads, “30 years inspiring joy and unity.” He’s kind, but he doesn’t pull punches either. “I need spirit. Quit giving me mashed potatoes without butter and salt. At least give me some chicken stock.” (Not long ago, the choir got together and made him a list of what they call “Terrance-isms.”)
Kept it all together
In some ways, Kelly and the choir are one and the same. He was there at the beginning, and he’s there now. “I really believe — really believe — he’s been the anchor or the pillar of the success organization,” says Mark DeSaulnier, who handles the finances as the executive director. “It’s gone through some very highs and very lows. It’s run the risk of closing doors. It’s been through it all. He has stayed through it all. That’s rare.”
Talk to most anybody, and they’ll tell you he’s the reason any of this works. With Kelly, says Sharon Hymes-Offord, a member for four years, “the walls sing. The paint on the walls sings. He brought sounds out of my body that I didn’t even understand existed. He brings that out of all of us. He is a master at what he does.”
“There’s a strong spiritual connection with the audience in concerts and with the congregation in church settings — a back and forth of energy that builds up,” says Ben Heveroh, who plays the piano and organ for the choir. “Terrance is a master of building that energy. It can be a delicate craft.”
San Francisco Chronicle
November 26, 2015
"Nevertheless, this prelude could not possibly prepare me for what came after the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir with their live band came on the stage. Their cunning entrée executed by joining on the song ... while walking down the church lane towards the stage, caught the audience by surprise. Their first song – Lord, How Come Me Here? – caught the audience by their hearts. Sitting in the front row, I could not hold the tears in any longer. The music was not resonating in the church anymore, it was resonating deep in my soul."
"Human Voices Made the Church Go Wild"
July 16, 2015
in response to Molde Jazz Festival performance
"Sunday afternoon at the Dance Palace was toned down shades of an old time revival, if you can picture an event like this in usually staid West Marin. The audience, many festooned in robes from choir robes to kimonos to bathrobes, packed the venue to hear this small ensemble of 13, the pick of the litter from the larger East Bay group of 55."
"Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Brings Audience to Its Feet"
West Marin Citizen
February 5, 2015
Terrance Kelly is a man of great passion and conviction. Those qualities have served his Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir well. Since cofounding the organization in 1985, Kelly has showed near-limitless energy and dedication in helping turn Oakland Interfaith into one of the world's top gospel choirs.
"Some people say I'm ambitious," Kelly once told me. "I just say I want what God has for us."
The choir's accomplishments include winning an Emmy Award in 1995, appearing on three Grammy-winning albums, performing with such stars as Linda Ronstadt and Lyle Lovett and touring the globe. Terrance Kelly and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir bring their holiday show to San Francisco, Oakland and San Francisco in December. Courtesy of Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir
Yet, the choir is always home for the holidays -- to the delight of its many fans. The group's annual December concerts are a cherished holiday tradition in the Bay Area, every bit as important as "The Nutcracker" and "A Christmas Carol."
The choir performs its 28th annual Holiday Concert at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland on Dec. 7; as well as its South Bay Holiday Concert Dec. 20 in Mountain View and its annual Christmas Eve shows at Slim's in San Francisco.
What is really great about these events is that they're equally suitable for longtime gospel music fan and newcomers to the genre. Everyone is welcome -- regardless of background, religion, etc. -- just like the organization itself.
Over the years, the choir's membership has represented many offshoots of Christianity as well as other religions. Of course, many view gospel as Christian music. Yet, Kelly sees the genre as something that can cross boundaries.
"Gospel often takes people from all kinds of races and religions to places they've never been," Kelly said. "You can cry your eyes out. You can lie on the floor and cry. You can run and jump. That's what it's all about."
The concerts regularly feature Kelly's innovative arrangements of traditional gospel music, which have included combining "The Little Drummer Boy" with Ravel's "Bolero" and delivering a reggae version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." It's pretty easy to see how those kinds of performances would appeal far beyond the regular gospel crowd.
The best thing about these shows might be that they illustrate how people of all different backgrounds can get together during the holidays. They underscore the choir's mission, which "is to inspire joy and unity among all people through black gospel and spiritual music traditions."
"It's a model of how the world can get along," Kelly said.
Contra Costa Times
November 19, 2013
"The choir is always home for the holidays–to the delight of its many fans. The group's annual December concerts are a cherished holiday tradition in the Bay Area, every bit as important as 'The Nutcracker' and 'A Christmas Carol'."
Bay Area News Group
November 11, 2013
“There’s no reason to be quiet about joy especially when it is sung by the angels…the way the choir members moved body and soul with welcoming hands opened wide, real inner smiles and bright, gloriously gifted voices gliding through texture and dynamics like sonorous lilies in a pond. That, ladies and gentlemen, spread the good time like butter to a biscuit.”
Jean Bartlett, Arts Correspondent
Pacifica Tribune, October 24, 2007
OIGC at Pacifica Performances Sanchez Concert Hall
“As a whole, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel choir gave an amazingly moving performance, angelic at times, delightfully complex, highly energetic, and beautifully graceful….In the end, it was met with appreciative applause and a standing ovation. All in all it was an inspiring holiday performance that brought light and love and music to many hearts that undoubtedly appreciated it.”
OIGC performance at SF County Men’s Jail, December 2011
“The Charleston City Paper stated, in response to hearing OIGC’s Saturday afternoon performance, ‘There’s nothing quite like the way the spirit moves when a really good gospel choir–and their backup combo–get cranked up: it’s utterly contagious.’ They couldn’t be more right! In their final purely choral numbers, OIGC had the crowd on its collective feet–clapping, swaying and shouting–everybody from little children to elderly senior citizens!”
Charleston International Choral Festival, April 2009
“But it was on the steps of City Hall, spilling onto the blacktop of Polk Street, where the party played out in earnest. The Glide Memorial Church Choir and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir performed some roof-raising music–inspiring pearl-and-pashmina-wrapped matrons to gamely sway along to the rhythm.”
OIGC performance at Black & White Ball, June 2005
“If you ever, ever have a chance to see the OIGC, do it. You will have the time of your life....Run, run to get their tickets whenever you see their name.”
Yelp review, January 2010
"This was my first year attending this event with my daughter and a friend. It was FANTASTIC–great for the family. I walked away feeling so happy. Great job to the folks who are responsible for putting this together. I look forward to next year. I plan to make it an annual event."
Review on Ticketmaster, December 2014
29th Annual Holiday Concert at the Paramount
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