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Savannah musicians bring Elvis to church with ‘How Great Thou Art’

  • Savannah singer Trae Gurley and his RCA Studio B Band will perform “How Great Thou Art, The Complete Elvis Gospel Album in Concert” to benefit Loop It Up Savannah. (Photo by Vitor Lindo)
  • The title song of Elvis Presley's "How Great Thou Art" won the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Sacred Performance.
 

Savannah musicians bring Elvis to church with ‘How Great Thou Art’

18 Oct 2017

Musician Trae Gurley says he thinks his upcoming “How Great Thou Art” concert will attract Elvis Presley fans, but he also sees the event as a big draw for “church-going people who just want to hear really great gospel music.”

The upcoming Trinity Sanctuary Concerts showcase “How Great Thou Art: The Complete Elvis Gospel Album in Concert” will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St. A portion of ticket sales goes to Loop It Up Savannah, a local community art program.

Gurley explains that he got the idea for this single performance after visiting Graceland in 2016.

“I’m good friends with Jared Hall, who helps put together these concert series at the Trinity, and we’ve been wanting to do a concert featuring an entire album compilation for a while,” he says. “After I got back from Graceland, I was on an Elvis kick and then I stumbled over this album.”

The entire 1967 album “How Great Thou Art” by Elvis features a series of original gospel songs, many recorded in a three-day session by “The King.”

“The album is 40 minutes long in its entirety,” he says. “I asked Jared to take a listen to it and see if he thought it would be something people would go for.”

The duo agreed and the next step was to gather a group of musicians and back-up vocalists to bring this vision alive.

Gurley has gathered an eclectic group of talented musicians to form his band and back-up vocalists for this concert, including Hall (piano), Eric Jones (organ), Bill Smith (guitar), Ira Miller (percussion) Marc Chesanow (bass) and Igor Fiksman (pedal steel guitar), as well as vocalist JJ Collins and a choir of singers, including Natasha Drena, Rebecca Flaherty, Emily Hall and Jenny Woodruff.

Loop It Up Savannah students will have artwork on display in the sanctuary. Local artist Panhandle Slim will also have works inspired by “The King” on display and for sale, with all proceeds benefiting Loop It Up Savannah.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and Gurley says Hubert Baker, Trinity’s organist, will lead hymns during seating.

“I call it seating music,” he says and laughs. “I really went back to my Southern church roots to find inspiration for this concert. … I didn’t realize how much Elvis loved gospel music until I started digging into this album. I never realized that his true aspiration was to be a gospel singer … and a majority of his record collection was Southern gospel music.

“It’s been fun working on this concert and revisiting this part of my childhood of growing up singing hymns at church. … There is something about this music that connects to my childhood and it stirs these emotions. It’s truly beautiful music and you don’t have to be a church-going person to enjoy it.

”This is going to be one of those concerts that is really more about the music and connecting that with the community.”

IF YOU GO

What: “How Great Thou Art, The Complete Elvis Gospel Album in Concert” with Trae Gurley and his RCA Studio B Band

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26

Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.

Cost: $20; portion of proceeds benefit Loop It Up Savannah

Info: tikly.co/sanctuaryconcertseries

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