HANCEVILLE, Ala. — The Wallace State Community College Diversity Committee will welcome The Birmingham Sunlights, an a cappella Southern gospel quartet, in concert on Tuesday, April 3, at 11 a.m. in the Burrow Center Recital Hall.
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, The Birmingham Sunlights were formed in 1978 by James Alex Taylor and his brothers Steve and Barry. Carl Smith and Eddie Washington joined the Taylor brothers to complete the ensemble. An a cappella group, they developed their four-part style within the Church of Christ, where no musical instruments were permitted.
The Birmingham Sunlights draw on the rich heritage of quartet-style singing of Alabama’s Jefferson County region, often characterized by a fifth member doubling the tenor voice. This style, which developed after World War I when rural blacks left their farms to work in coal mines and steel mills, came to have widespread influence on the recorded gospel music of the era. Under the guidance of older quartets such as the Sterling Jubilees, Shelby County Big Four, and the Four Eagles, The Birmingham Sunlights became the inheritors of this musical tradition and, while keeping a firm grounding in it, they also explore new material and innovative arrangements in order to maintain a fresh approach to gospel music.
In 2009, The Birmingham Sunlights won the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Besides appearing at numerous festivals across the nation, the Sunlights have toured in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and Europe. They performed in France as ambassadors of Alabama traditional culture and have performed for the Queen of England and the Prince of Monaco.
Today, The Birmingham Sunlights include James Taylor, Reginald Speights, Bill Graves, Steve Taylor and Barry Taylor.
The general public is welcome to attend this free concert.
The purpose of the Wallace State Diversity Committee is to develop professional development activities regarding diversity sensitivity and awareness for employees, students and the community.