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: Dr. Margaret Douroux

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With the 20th Annual National Gospel Music Conference convening in Los Angeles, California this month, BLACKGOSPEL.COM spoke with one of the most respected and important figures associated with Gospel music.  Dr. Margaret Douroux’s extensive tenure as a pedagogue, composer and musician in Gospel music is rather remarkable. Her important role as the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization – The Heritage Music Foundation – which seeks to establish a permanent home and museum for Gospel music is admirable.  Our interview with one of the pioneers of modern-day Gospel music proved to be one of the most enlightening exchanges we’ve featured on our site.  We’re sure you’ll agree.

Christopher Heron: Dr. Margaret Douroux, your life and ministry has been dedicated to sharing the rich heritage and legacy of Gospel music with the public. Many people are now more aware of the deep ties Gospel music has played in Black culture due to the contributions of organizations like the Heritage Music Foundation. But what are some interesting facts or revelations people may still be unaware of, as it relates to the deep roots and abiding impact of Gospel music in American culture?

Dr. Margaret Douroux: One of the most interesting facts I often discuss in my seminars is that the chronology of Gospel Music matches the events occurring in society.  The music of Black America changed according to the landmark changes in the culture.  When we were slaves, we sang a slave song that originated mostly from the pain of slavery.  The song expressed the pain of slavery but also the faith that God would deliver. Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen to Over My Head I Hear Music in the Air.  When we learned to read and write, we sang an educated song from the hymnbook.  First, we sang the hymn imitating the European style.  Then, we added our own Black music flavor.  When Black America marched for freedom, we sang freedom songs based on songs from the Black Church…We Shall Over Come, Precious Lord Take My Hand, Move On Up A Little Higher. The contemporary song includes Traditional Gospel to Hip-Hop.  From Traditional songs like, If It Had Not Been For The Lord On My Side to Contemporary Why I Sing.  Black church sacred music always sings according to what is happening in the culture. We sing according to where we are. 

CH: Your non-profit organization is diligently working at building a “shrine” for Gospel music that will preserve the contributions of unforgettable figures like Rev. James Cleveland, Dr. Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson, to name a few.  Why is it so important for this generation to know and recognize each of these individual’s contributions to sacred music?

MD: Gospel Music is one of America’s true art forms.  In many parts of the world, other cultures are imitating Gospel Music.  The motto of the Heritage Music Foundation says, “If Classical Music has its shrine in Carnegie Hall;  if Country Music has its shrine in the Grand Ole' Opry'. then Gospel Music too deserves its shrine”.  Black American youth need to know those heroes who paved the way for them to be who they are today.  Black music in its entirety rests on the foundation of Black sacred music and Rev. James Cleveland, Thomas Dorsey , Mahalia Jackson and others were the pioneers of contemporary sacred music. 

CH: Dr. Douroux, you’ve also been a prolific and acclaimed Gospel music composer for over a generation.  Who are some of the figures that mentored and inspired you to be a torchbearer for Gospel music?

MD: In my gospel music career I have had many influences.  I am proud to mention that both my father and mother, Rev. and Mrs. Earl A. Pleasant, are mentioned in the Smithsonian Archives as being pioneers of West Coast Gospel Music.  They were my strongest mentors.  My dad was a pastor that I accompanied on piano at Sunday School until I was able to accompany the adult choirs.  My dad was a marvelous singer and before he was called into the ministry, toured the country with Mahalia Jackson.  Consequently, we were exposed to all of those great Gospel singers from that era.  They were in our home and our church, including Mahalia Jackson, Joe May, Sally Martin, Thurston G. Frazier, James Cleveland and others.  My mother was an outstanding accompanist and she often taveled with my father and accompanied many great choirs as a soloist. 

CH: You’ve watched the sound and style of Gospel music evolve over the years, as many of us have, from the church-based choral sound to a variety of sounds and styles that mirror contemporary and pop culture.  What are your thoughts on the growing influence of Hip-Hop, R&B and other musical genres on Gospel music as demonstrated by popular artists like Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams?

MD: Actually my answer to your first question is the answer to this question.  I mentioned that Black sacred music sings where the people are.  We live in a synthesized, digital society.  Our children have access to boom boxes, DVDs, CDs MPs and high technology.  The music of the church is influenced by what is happening in the society.  Thomas Dorsey’s Precious Lord traditional gospel song was considered contemporary in its early days.  Many of the churches would not accept this now historical song in worship because it was too contemporary.  The instruments used in today’s contemporary church,(drums, bass, synthesizer) were not heard of in the early generations of Black church.  Now, because of the influence of society most churches have small bands.

CH: You recently released your fourth and most ambitious project to date, Dr. Margaret Douroux Presents Heritage In Worship.  Could you share a sense of your theme and vision for this album, as you recorded and released this project both as a CD and DVD?

MD: On that CD we recorded I Will Heal Your Land. After 911, our country was in a major state of turmoil.  According to scripture the church had the answer.  II Chronicles 7:14 promises that if the people of God would humble themselves and pray, seek God’s face and turn from their wicked way, then He, God would heal the land.  Hold On too is a song of encouragement.  We wanted to get the message to the people that every Christian ought to be aware that God holds all power in His hand and through prayer we are the group with the access.  Today we find ourselves again in world turmoil.  I am planning to use the song again as the theme for the conference and encouragement for the nation.

CH: Your anticipated conference, the 20th Annual National Gospel Music Conference, is set for Oct. 19-22 in Los Angeles, CA.  What are some of the special treats you have in store for the registrants?

MD: The conference date is October 19-22.  Morning sessions begin with a continental breakfast.  The first sessions are 9-10 AM on both Thursday and Friday, which is the founder’s hour.  It will include special music from the founder’s pen and information from Heritage Music Foundation satellites.  From 11am-12pm, professional mentors will be available to mentor attendees with special interest in sound engineering, instruments in church, choreography, music ministry, and music writing. As well, Friday 11am-12pm, there will be a panel on Gospel Music Resources.  2-3pm, new writers will introduce their music to the conference.  3-5pm will be Mass Choir rehearsals, 6-8pm, Youth sessions and 7:30pm will be nightly sessions.  The Headquarters for the conference is the Crowne Plaza LAX.  The night session on Wednesday night will feature Rodena Preston and the L.A. Gospel Music Workshop Chapter choir.  There will also be a tribute to Daryl Coley.  On Thursday night which is Youth night, the Riverside Gospel College choir will sing and on Friday Night, we will have special guest, Kathy Taylor Brown from Houston Texas, along with the Mass Choir.  Saturday morning at 8am will be the Founders Breakfast at the Proud Bird.

CH: It is apparent that you have an unwavering passion and deep respect for Gospel music.  As the CEO of the Heritage Music Foundation, what is your greatest hope and prayer for this music that we all treasure and love, as it continues to grow in popularity and evolve from contemporary and international influences?

 MD: The mission of the Heritage Music Foundation is to nurture and preserve the legacy of Gospel Music and its goal is to build a “Gospel House” in which to perform gospel music, create a hall of fame, record and teach.  It is my prayer that the Gospel House is a close reality and that America will forever remember the contribution of this great art form.  Part of our mission was realized during this past year.  UCLA documented the events that Heritage sponsored during the 2004-2005.  That year of information along with memorabilia, old sheet music, 33LPs, videos and more, are stored in the UCLA, Heritage Music Foundation archives.  Most of it has been digitized so that it is accessible to the community. It is my prayer that The Gospel House will soon be the place where these archives can be viewed and stored.

For more information on the Heritage Music Foundation and the 20th Annual National Gospel Music Conference, visit the official website at www.hmfgospel.com. To contact Dr. Margaret Douroux for speaking engagements, music presentations or charitable donations to the Gospel Heritage Foundation, email her at gospelmeg@aol.com.   


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Posted: October.2005


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