Saints Unified Voices Win Grammy
February 17, 2006 — News from the Church
Winning a Grammy was the last thing Gladys Knight had on her mind when she formed the Saints Unified Voices choir and with them recorded their debut album, One Voice.
“The Grammy nomination really surprised us because that’s not why we recorded an album,” Sister Knight says. “We did it to help share the gospel. We never imagined we would be recognized by the music industry.”
But when One Voiceseized the No. 1 Hot Shot debut spot inBillboardmagazine’s listings within the first week of its release in 2005, it was clear that the music industry was listening. The album simultaneously claimed the No. 1 Gospel album and No. 2 Inspirational album on iTunes.
Then last week, the Saints Unified Voices choir, and Sister Knight won best gospel choir album at the 48th Grammy Awards. This is the seventh Grammy for Sister Knight, who also received one last year for best traditional R&B (rhythm and blues) vocal performance.
This year’s award is a tremendous honor for the all-volunteer choir. All of the members concurrently carry on their respective professions—school teacher, doctor, at-home mom, for example—and all 100 members of the choir are Latter-day Saints.
Sister Knight organized the choir three years ago to perform at a fireside in her ward. The choir is made up of 100 culturally diverse singers, whom Sister Knight named Saints Unified Voices to reflect her idea of Latter-day Saints singing as one.
“I have always wanted to direct a gospel choir,” Sister Knight said. “This is my dream, and I believe that the Lord is blessing me with it.”
The response to that first fireside performance was enormous. Requests for more firesides continue to pour in, and the choir has since performed at the Tabernacle on Temple Square and at stake firesides in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and England.
“We count it our greatest privilege to share the message of the restored gospel through music and through the testimonies we bear,” Sister Knight says. She is a convert herself, having joined the Church in 1997 after being introduced to the gospel by her children. From then on, she has sought to share her testimony through music. At his 90th birthday celebration, President Gordon B. Hinckley challenged her to make hymns more invigorating and upbeat.
The music sung by the SUV choir is described as a toe-tapping, hand-clapping renovation of traditional hymns, with the addition of some original pieces as well. They sing an energetic classic, “Pass Me Not;” a sentimental Hawaiian song, “Iesu Me Kanaka Waiwai;“ and the familiar “Come, Come Ye Saints” to the beat of African drums—all in gospel style, which means no sheet music. Sister Knight insists they have tofeelthe music in order to build faith while breaking down cultural barriers.
One Voiceis the first album the choir has produced, making the Grammy an even sweeter surprise.
“I couldn’t believe it was real, that we actually won,” said choir member Robert McNinch. “It’s an awesome feeling to be a part of a group like this. It’s also an overwhelming honor.”