Phillip Carter
Featuring the Suwalki Workshop Choir and the Sounds of Victory
Live in Suwalki, Poland
SOV, Inc. (release date: January 25, 2019)

By Bob Marovich

The international popularity of gospel music has provided American choir directors and clinicians with opportunities to teach gospel vocal techniques to choirs in Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, and elsewhere around the world.

Directors Norris Garner and Phillip Carter have found working in Poland, and specifically with talented conductor Szymon Markiewicz, to be particularly fruitful. Indeed, Carter’s collaboration with Markiewicz and the Suwalki Workshop Choir is the subject of his CD, Live in Suwalki, Poland.

During their stay in Suwalki, a city in northeastern Poland, Carter and his choir, the Sounds of Victory, wove the thick harmonic lines and gushing passion redolent of American gospel music into the austere choral tradition of the European Protestant church.

Under the tutelage of Carter, a Stellar Award-winning gospel singer, songwriter, and educator, the Suwalki Workshop Choir evokes the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir in its P&W balladry, especially on the effusive “A Grateful Heart” and “Hello God.” Another P&W ballad, “Spirit Come,” is rendered in American and Polish versions (it is not sung in the Polish language but by the Polish ensemble). Though some soloists sound more confident than others in front of the mike, the choirs are uniformly professional in their dynamic, harmonic, and lyrical delivery.

William Hubbard’s composition, “I Love You Lord Today,” an Edwin Hawkins classic that Phillip Carter recorded in the past and is now in hymnbooks, appears on the album. It is the undisputed highlight, too. Not only do the singers do captivating justice to the song, but a lovely instrumental coda brings it to an elegant conclusion.

The album selection that comes closest to the African American gospel tradition is “We Honor You,” with its island feel and bass-heavy rhythm.

Classical-jazz compositions penned by Markiewicz and rendered by the Holy Noiz Band and the Suwalki Chamber Orchestra are interspersed throughout the live worship project. Indeed, the album’s first track, the lovely “Oberek,”makes Live in Suwalki, Poland the first gospel album of which I am aware that opens with an instrumental based on a Polish folk dance.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “I Love You Lord Today,” “A Grateful Heart.”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.