Saturday, October 11, 2014

There's a Message in Their Song...The Las Vegas Mass Choir

The sound and presence of the Las Vegas Mass Choir powerfully enhances the many concerts, events and awards shows in which they perform. They have accompanied Stevie Wonder for his Icon Award medley at the Billboard Awards, harmonized with Wynonna Judd for a live TV telethon performance, and performed with John Legend, Neil Diamond and Josh Grobin, among many others. The Las Vegas Mass Choir also performs occasionally at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, most recently for the Nevada Sesquicentennial Celebration. They also take on specialty bookings such as a recent singing wedding proposal at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino.

Recently the Las Vegas Mass Choir has taken their act to another level as an integral part of "Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles," at the Venetian Theatre on the Las Vegas strip.

The story of the Las Vegas Mass Choir 
Because of the variety of events the choir had been asked to perform for several years, James R. Smith, Master Choir Director decided the time had come to make them an official act, and in 2004 the Las Vegas Mass Choir was officially formed. To celebrate they released a CD entitled Mass Appeal. This adult choir consisting of 35 vocalists has now been a special presence in Las Vegas for over a decade!

When I heard the Las Vegas Mass Choir (LVMC) was going to be performing in a several week run of  "Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles," I thought it was a perfect fit. Since his early years Ray Charles was known for the special and unique way he blended jazz and southern gospel.  So it's only fitting that a Ray Charles tribute would include a choir...not just any choir but a strong and experienced one, so of course, the Las Vegas Mass Choir!

I recently spoke with James R. Smith. He told me "We would like people to know that the Las Vegas Mass Choir is a Faith-based professional choir that sings music to inspire people from ALL walks of life. We choose to go to places where many people will not go and spread joy through our music. Our tag line says There's a Message In Our Song."

James is currently living in Houston and takes frequent trips to Las Vegas as LVMC's CEO. He helps give direction to major events, and teaches and directs music. James is the point person and there is a stellar Las Vegas based leadership team including a Business Manager, Publicist, Spiritual Advisor, Lead Choir Director, 4 Associate Choir Directors and a Support Staff all in place to assure the success of the Las Vegas Mass Choir.

The LVMC has been acknowledged with awards such as Choir of the Year - BMA Award 2013, Melbourne Gospel Jazz Festival Award 2007, and the Hollywood Gospel Insider Award 2005, to name a few.

James went on to say, "Our relationship with The Smith Center is growing and we are honored to participate whenever they call us. We first did Georgia On My Mind back in February as a one time show not ever thinking it would turn into a multiple week run on the Las Vegas strip. That's pretty exciting!....The Music of Ray Charles is timeless and it's rewarding to have this accomplishment on our resume. While appearing in Georgia On My Mind, we are sharing the stage with awesome and talented performers. Aside from this, some of our members have not had the experience of working five nights a week on the strip until now. Our choir has about 35 active members and the show only requires 20 of our singers each night. We rehearse the whole choir to allow for rotation and understudies as needed."
Photo by USA Today...Some of the cast of "Georgia On My Mind"

"The Las Vegas Mass Choir brings spirit to the production!".....Clint Holmes

The dimension a gospel choir brings to any performance goes beyond the energetic but soothing harmonies. It adds depth, excitement, and inspiration to every song!

The choir director for "Georgia On My Mind" and longtime member of the LVMC, Edie Aikels told me,
"It's very rewarding to see the training and preparation that I and the choir have done come to fruition every night in such a great venue at the Venetian. One of the things I enjoy is seeing and being a part of such a great group of people. Everyone that is involved in the show is truly amazing as individuals and as performers and its a great honor to share the stage with them!"

The Raelettes with Clint Holmes...Photo from Clint Holmes FB Page

The first song the choir performs in and for me the moment when the show really kicks into full force  is "I Can't Stop Loving You." Originally recorded by Don Gibson and also Kitty Wells, it was Ray Charles' 1962 version that reached number 1 on the billboard Hot 100 and R & B charts. For "Hit the Road Jack" three members of the LVMC serve as the Raelettes and it's a sizzling rendition with Clint Holmes and the three ladies!

Also included of course is what many would say is Ray Charles' signature song, "Georgia On My Mind." Written in 1930  by Hoagy Carmichael, it was the 1960 version by Ray that made it a major hit.  Many artists have recorded or sampled the song since. The extravaganza ends with a real showstopper, "America the Beautiful." It's only fitting the choir should be a part of the performance of this song as the music was originally composed in the 1800's by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Ray recorded his version in 1976 during America's Bicentennial celebration year.

Following "Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles," the choir will be preparing for their 2nd Annual Home for the Holidays Christmas Party. The date is December 13th this year and will be held at the Larry Hart Mansion. The charity will be the Ronald McDonald House

Other projects include new music to be recorded with a possible February release date and a reunion concert in May of 2015 to celebrate the success of ten years as the Las Vegas Mass Choir!

Las Vegas Mass Choir....702-334-8444....Email
Publicist, Lillian McMorris, 888-812-5455,

LVMC Single ..."Hold On" available on!/id368333981

"Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles" Venetian Theater Las Vegas, Musical Director David Loeb
Clint Holmes, Nnena Freelon, Kirk Whalum,Take 6, Las Vegas All Star Big Band & the Las Vegas Mass Choir!

LVMC Cast...James R. Smith, Choir Master Director, Edie Aikels,Choir Director
Veronica Morton - Raelette, Wilma Roberts - Raelette, Urian Booze - Raelette,Vee Vee Prejean, Teresa Bolden, Judy Mitchell, Stephanie Stewart, Edith Newsome, Dawn Haley, Lucy Baines, Michelle Bender, Henrietta Scott, Beverly Reese, Anthony Bolden, Deven Chase, Wallace Broadnax, Reida Solis, Sonya Aikels - Curry, Jason Manapaz, Andre Crockette, Robert Parker

Copyright Anna Wendt 2014

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