The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Worship

December 18, 2009

Rich Brown: Ralph Carmichael’s Big Swing Band to perform

A contemporary Christian-music miracle worker will be weaving his magic in Joplin on Sunday, thanks largely to the efforts of two well-known area singers.

Ralph Carmichael, a driving force in the creation of contemporary Christian music as well as a renowned arranger and conductor on the secular side, will be appearing with his 16-piece band at College Heights Christian Church.

The Ralph Carmichael Big Swing Band will be performing in “A Christmas Celebration,” thanks in large part to The Good Twins (Dwight and Dwayne), who have had many professional dealings with the well-known musician during the course of their careers.

The two-hour concert, featuring Christmas music the first half and church hymns the second, will begin at 5 p.m. Sunday at College Heights Christian Church, 4311 Newman Road. Doors will open an hour earlier. Tickets are $15.

The musical format will be what Dwight Good calls the “gospel swing” style. The secular swing style was popularized during the era of big bands and was first heard by the 81-year-old Carmichael in the 1940s.

“(The term ‘big band’) was used to distinguish between the small combos, which only used two or three horns, and the innovative sound of a larger instrumental group called ‘A big band,’” Carmichael said on his Web site, www.ralphcarmichael.com.

As a freshman at San Jose (Calif.) High School, Carmichael heard a live big band for the first time and decided that was the type of music that would be great in the church where his dad preached.

His quest for just that style began after he graduated from high school and headed to college.

While at Southern California Bible College, he organized his first big band, made up of students studying for the ministry.

“In the late ’40s we went on television with a program called ‘The Campus Christian Hour,’” he said on his Web site. “We were on for 76 weeks and won an Emmy Award. The ’50s and ’60s were wonderful years of adventurous opportunities for me in the field of gospel music. I remember writing new songs for the Billy Graham films and dreaming that some day I would like to do big band arrangements of these gospel songs.”

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