EMI Gospel artist and GRAMMY winner Smokie Norful boldly merges the two halves of his career---artistry and church ministry---with the release of two new projects, the innovative devotional series Worship & A Word and the debut recording of his church choir Smokie Norful presents The Victory Cathedral Choir. Both projects are available in stores and online now.
While the tradition of the singing preacher has a long history in the African American church, Worship & A Word marks the first time a major Gospel artist has married his role as an active pastor to his artistry on the same album. Each installment in the series contains a full-length sermon along with a bonus studio recording, which is reflective of the sermon’s theme. All sermons in the series were recorded live at Victory Cathedral Worship Center, the thriving Chicago-area church founded by Norful in 2005.
“When I started pastoring five years ago, I literally took off from the music industry for almost 2 years because my main focus was building the church,” Norful reveals. “My natural love, gift and anointing for preaching grew to the point where that’s really what I wanted to do. I thought music was the only thing I was made for, but this was what I was really made for. In order to combine both ministries I put together this model.”
In keeping with the truly unique nature of the project, three installments of the series---“The Myth Of Unmet Needs,” “Matters Of The Heart” and “According To Your Faith”---were released simultaneously through TreMyles/EMI Gospel, the joint label venture owned by Norful and the company that has been his recording home for more than a decade. Each devotional carries a retail price of $5.98.
To further celebrate the success of Norful’s church ministry, TreMyles/EMI Gospel has also released Smokie Norful presents The Victory Cathedral Choir. The high-energy, 10-song collection, which debuted at #4 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart, was recorded live in Chicago. The project captures the essence of the Sunday worship experience at the ministry’s two locations---the West Suburban and South Campuses of Victory Cathedral Worship Center.
Norful’s vision for his church choir is steeped in the rich tradition of Chicago’s legendary choral ensembles, with one major exception: “Most of the Chicago choirs have been community-based,” says Norful. “The Victory Cathedral Choir is distinct in that these are regular, lay-choir members who are not professional singers. The majority of our singers are regular churchgoers who do not have a professional musical background. They’re just excited to be able to serve in the ministry.”
In fact, the commitment to service is a core ideal for the choir. Members of Victory Cathedral Choir are required to serve in other auxiliaries in the church in order to be eligible for the choir. Their participation extends to meal and clothing programs with shelters for the homeless and battered women, as well as ongoing outreach efforts to college and high school students and their faculty in the communities surrounding the church’s two campuses.
“The reality is they are not just a choir who sings. This is a choir who serves,” Norful says. “That dynamic is very exciting for me as a pastor. What a wonderful thing to be able to marry both of my passions---music and ministry---without comprising the integrity of either one in any way.”
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