Celebrated singer Richard Smallwood to perform at fifth annual Cora A. Thomas Gospel Extravaganza
Richard Smallwood, one of the country’s most celebrated gospel recording artists, will perform at the fifth annual Cora A. Thomas Gospel Extravaganza on Sunday, Feb. 28.
The event, sponsored by Syracuse University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), will be held at the the Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, 818 S. West St., and is free and open to the public. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the event begins at 4:30 p.m.
The program is funded by the Syracuse University Co-Curricular Fee. Buses are available to transport students from campus to the venue and back at the following times:
- Pick-up at the Schine Student Center and transport to the Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church will be at 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Pick-up at the Second Olivet Missionary Baptist Church and transport back to the Schine Student Center will be at 7:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. For more information, contact OMA at 443-9676.
Smallwood, a native of Washington, D.C., is a singer, songwriter, arranger and world-class pianist, and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He is the winner of a Grammy Award, as well as numerous Dove (the highest honor in gospel music) and Stellar awards.
As a child, Smallwood thrived on rich and diverse musical fare, including not only gospel, but classical, R&B and pop as well. After his family settled in Washington, the young Smallwood formed his first gospel group, “The Baby Smallwood Singers.” The boys built a following and found themselves in great demand in the Washington area, where Smallwood would meet Roberta Flack as his eighth-grade music teacher. Three years later, Smallwood was accepted into a program for musically gifted children at Howard University, which he later attended full-time, graduating with a degree in classical piano and voice.
Not long after settling in D.C., Smallwood’s talents became well known as his profile grew in his years as an undergraduate student at Howard. He became a founding member of the Howard Gospel Choir, and a featured member of a contemporary gospel group, the Celestial Singers; taking the place of its previous keyboardist, Donnie Hathaway, who went on to become one of the great R&B/pop stars of the 70s. The group gained special prominence in 1973 when it became the first gospel act ever to perform at the internationally renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
That group was the forerunner to the original Richard Smallwood Singers, which, among a long list of firsts in its nearly two-decade tenure, was the first black gospel group ever to tour the Soviet Union. Smallwood never pursued his formal classical studies any further, although his years of classical training had a profound effect on the derivation of what the world today knows as the “Smallwood Sound”—a fusion of the gospel, classical, pop and R&B styles he’d grown up on, and that has been the hallmark of his music throughout his illustrious career.
Upon his graduation from Howard, Smallwood taught music privately and at the University of Maryland to support himself as he began to focus more and more on gospel music as a life’s work. Forming the Smallwood Singers in 1977, Smallwood has had 15 consecutive Top 10 albums, including his 25th anniversary release, “Journey! Live in New York.”
Smallwood has performed in world-renowned performance centers across the globe, and at the White House during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He completed a master of divinity degree at Howard University’s School of Divinity in 2004, with honors. He was ordained that year, and serves as minister and artist-in-residence at his home church, Metropolitan Baptist Church.