BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - USA Henry Panion, III, PhD, conductor, composer, arranger, producer and distinguished University Professor, triumphs with Gospel Goes Classical II (GGC II). Featuring Dove and Stella Award winning artist Kurt Carr and the Kurt Carr Singers; Gospel jazz sensation Ben Tankard; the GGC Symphony Orchestra; and the Faith Chapel Christian Center Sanctuary Choir, Gospel Goes Classical II took place over two nights, Friday and Saturday, May 1st and 2nd. Gospel Goes Classical II was presented by Dr. Panion’s Audiostate 55 Entertainment Company in association with the City of Birmingham, Alabama at the world-class, acoustically superior Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center.
Dr. Panion has worked with more than 50 orchestras across the globe, from the Royal Philharmonic in London, England to the Tokyo Philharmonic in Japan, from the Honolulu Symphony in Hawaii to the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. While serving as conductor and music director of the former Birmingham Metropolitan Orchestra from 1994 – 1996 Dr. Panion started this journey of combining gospel music and gospel choirs on the same programs with music by the great classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. The “fusion” of these two genres lead to what the world now knows as Gospel Goes Classical. The 2006 history-making CD and DVD with Juanita Bynum and Jonathan Butler rose to the top of both the classical and gospel Billboard charts, simultaneously.
Recently commissioned by the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (NC) to write a show with Kurt Carr, Dr. Panion decided to invite Kurt Carr to perform that show in Birmingham, the birth place of Gospel Goes Classical, as the featured performer for Gospel Goes Classical II. Ultimately, Dr. Panion added his long-time friend and collaborator Ben Tankard to the lineup. The three, along with the Kurt Carr Singers and the Faith Chapel Christian Center Choir presented an evening of majesty leaving those in attendance mesmerized and those who missed out on witnessing this history making performance, regretful!
On opening night, Kurt Carr and The Kurt Carr Singers captured the audience with a heartfelt performance that included a breathtaking solo of “For Every Mountain” by Yvette Williams. Highlights went on to include Ben Tankard’s spirit-filled rendition of “Love Notes,” performed in tribute to the memory of Birmingham City Councilor Miriam Witherspoon, a true patron of the arts who passed a week prior. As with the first recording, Dr. Panion was able to lead these performances with arrangements that totally expressed the essence of the original music with a masterful addition of a near 60-piece orchestra, a 100-voice choir, and an on-point conducting baton.
With so many noted artists, producers, and industry execs coming to Birmingham just to witness Dr. Panion’s production, he asked many of them to participate in what is hoped will be first of a series of Gospel industry roundtables. In addition to Kurt Carr, Ben Tankard, and Dr. Panion, participants included multi-Grammy-winning producer Kevin Bond, General Manager for Flow Records, Toska Medlock-Lee; Executive Director of the Artist Company International, Vernice Watson; and Program Director of the 24/7 Gospel radio station in Birmingham, Prince Yelder. Over the weekend, more than 600 students were allowed to attend rehearsals and the roundtable discussion.
Dr. Panion expressed how truly honored he is that so many artists have sought to work with him, from Stevie Wonder, for whom he has served as conductor and arranger since 1992, to American Idol winner Ruben Studdard, including gospel industry luminaries the Winans and the Blind Boys of Alabama. But of all the hats Dr. Panion wears, there is none he enjoys more than serving as producer, arranger, and conductor and combining these talents with his love of Gospel music to create the unmatched sounds of Gospel Goes Classical.
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