Hail the festive season in true gospel style this year with the joyous sounds of Harlem Gospel Choir. The world-famous troupe from New York’s Harlem district returns to Japan for the fifth time from Dec. 13-23 and promises an exultant performance of hand-clapping and foot-stomping. You may even get to join them on stage.
Founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who thought of the idea while attending a celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at Harlem’s Cotton Club, the choir have collaborated with U2, Paul McCartney and B.B. King.
With its impassioned exclamations, catchy melodies and dance-along rhythms, gospel first became widely popular in Japan in 1988 with the off-Broadway gospel musical “Mama, I Want to Sing!” The boom was reinforced in the early 1990s when the “Sister Act” movies starring Whoopi Goldberg became huge hits. Today, there are more than 100 gospel choirs in Tokyo alone.
While it is common for artists to chat to the audience during performances, Harlem Gospel Choir goes one step further. In their previous shows in Japan, they called the audience on to the stage to sing with them; postconcert they were chatting to audience members in the venue’s lobby.
The choir will present a medley of Christmas classics, including “White Christmas” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and tunes from the “Sister Act” movies, such as “Oh Happy Day” and “Joyful Joyful.”
Harlem Gospel Choir: Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo, Dec 13; Kannai Hall, Yokohama, Dec 14; Showa Hitomi Kinen University, Tokyo, Dec 15; Yomiuri Hall, Tokyo, Dec 16; Atsugi-shi Bunka Kaikan, Kanagawa Prefecture, Dec 17; Morino Hall 21, Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Dec 18; Nerima Bunka Center, Tokyo, Dec 19; Kawaguchi Lilia, Saitama Prefecture, Dec 20; Akaishi Shimin Bunka Center, Hyogo Prefecture, Dec 21; Osaka Kosei Nenkin Kaikan, Dec 23. Times and ticket prices vary. For information, visit www.tate.jp/gospel2007.html