From the Heart
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From the Heart

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The best kept secret in music


"MAP Benefit"

MAP urges Charlotteans to join together to overcome AIDS
Published 02.01.06
By Branna Calloway

Lowell Warner, Photographer; courtesy of WSOC-TV
Catrina Pegues lifts her voice.

MAP hosts the first annual AIDS Awareness Gospel Explosion at 6pm on Saturday, Feb. 4, to be held at St. Paul Baptist Church, 1401 Allen St. Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, Medical Director of Presbyterian Urgent Care Operations, will serve as keynote speaker. Available from participating choirs and MAP, tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. See for info.

African-Americans accounted for 69 percent of all new HIV infections in Mecklenburg County during the first half of 2005. So the Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP) is taking the fight to church: Black churches, a cornerstone of the black community, have initiated annual prayer weeks to foster AIDS awareness in their communities. Although tremendously important, these efforts have fallen short in reducing the number of HIV cases. The community at large, especially the youth, is not heeding the message.

Gospel music has long been a way of helping the oppressed overcome their burdens. As the background music of the Civil Rights Movement, gospel reminded activists of God's promises, giving them the strength to persevere through adversity. As they sang the movement's anthem, "We Shall Overcome," everyday people put aside their fear and marched toward something brighter and bigger than themselves.

Today, the most vital of urban missions is the attempt to educate youth about the dire realities of AIDS beyond Magic Johnson's seeming triumph over the disease and the ramifications of the double-whammy effects of AIDS and poverty.

To foster more African-American participation in the fight to prevent infection, MAP is throwing an AIDS Awareness Gospel Explosion Feb. 4 to spread the word by combining the message with gospel music. Funded in part by the United Way Central Carolinas, MAP provides comprehensive case management, support services, prevention education and limited financial assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS in the Charlotte area.

Negative associations to AIDS stem from its transmission via drug use and homosexuality, says Joe Gentry, community resource manager for MAP, and that has hindered efforts to educate the community on disease prevention. In a March 2003 Associated Press article, Don Sneed, executive director of Renaissance III, a contemporary of MAP in Dallas, cited the stringent position of the church as an obstacle. "On any given Sunday, in any given black church, you can hear that old spiel, 'God didn't create Adam and Steve, he created Adam and Eve,'" said Sneed, who is black. "This is drilled into young black boys from the minute they hit the church."

But the emergence of the "Down Low" trend among African-American men points to the reality that some black men are engaging in clandestine homosexual activity, and the church's sermonizing can contribute to ambivalence and fear among parishioners practicing risky behavior. Meanwhile, women and children under the age of 3 are now the biggest group of victims of this voiceless epidemic.

Maybe this "voice" can be called to respond by the reassuring comfort found in gospel music. Gimme the Mike Charlotte 2004 winner Catrina Pegues will lend her voice as feature soloist to the Gospel Explosion. Joining her are the Pride Gospel Mass Choir, Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church Choir, Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte Choir, Voices of Hope Recovery Choir and Weeping Willow AME Zion Church Choir.

In keeping with its mission, St. Paul Baptist Church will host Gospel Explosion, a fundraiser for MAP. "It is our mandate to reach for the burdened, bruised and bound; hurt, hopeless and homeless; sick, sinful and sorrowful," states St. Paul's pastor, Gregory K. Moss. Dealing with issues that are relevant today is foremost in St. Paul's campaign to minister to the community.

Organizers also hope Gospel Explosion will increase exposure for National Black AIDS Awareness Day, an annual event that promotes testing and education, held on Feb. 7.

- Creative Loafing

"Firebird Alliance"

Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 8:00pm:
The Firebird Arts Alliance, in collaboration with Central Piedmont Community College, present:
"Vox & Friends"

Charlotte’s newest professional choral ensemble, VOX, will present "VOX & Friends," a live recording / benefit concert at 8:00pm, on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, in support of Inspire the Fire, Inc., an inner-city, youth arts-training program.

Firebird Arts Alliance Artistic Director David Tang and Associate Artistic Director Peppie Calvar lead VOX in a program of spectacular contemporary choral music by composers like Edwin Fissinger, Duke Ellington, Astor Piazzolla, Stephen Leek, and more, to be included in VOX’s debut CD – “Out of this World;” the program will also include spirituals, jazz and gospel music in celebration of Black History Month, performed in collaboration with some of Charlotte’s best African-American musical artists.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Inspire the Fire, Inc.

Guest artist/collaborators include Ethel Beatty Barnes, Dennis Reed & G.A.P., Henry Lebedinsky and Catrina Pegues.
Ethel Beatty Barnes (, star of Broadway stage and film, joins VOX in Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday and other jazz/gospel favorites. Ms. Barnes performed leading roles on Broadway, opposite artists like Gregory Hines, and appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Cotton Club.
Dennis Reed & G.A.P., Charlotte’s hottest new Gospel sensations ( or read about Dennis:, recently performed with VOX and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in the CSO’s Daybreak of Freedom performance, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., to thunderous ovations.
Catrina Pegues ( won the 2004 Charlotte Gimme the Mike-Charlotte competition and sings gospel and inspirational music throughout the region.
Henry Lebedinsky, Music Director of Music at St. Alban’s (, appears as guest conductor of VOX, conducting an original work by Mr. Lebedinsky.
The performance will take place on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, NC (301 Caldwell Lane, Davidson, NC 28036 –

Ticket reservations can be made by calling (704) 365-1661 or e-mailing us at:
$20 – general admission / $12 – students and seniors

For additional information on VOX & Friends, contact David Tang at (704) 232-0605 /

ABOUT THE FIREBIRD ARTS ALLIANCE: The Firebird Arts Alliance brings artists and artistic institutions together from all disciplines, to collaborate in innovative, commercially successful, and socially beneficial ways.
Firebird will facilitate collaborations between artists of all disciplines as well as people of all races, religions, cultures and backgrounds, in order to inspire a community of respect, equality and creativity.

David J. Tang
Artistic and acting Executive Director, FIREBIRD ARTS ALLIANCE
Owner and Principal, BREAK THE BOX ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT (professional use only)
P.O. Box 9361, Charlotte, NC 28299 (Firebird) / 201 Shasta Lane, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Break the Box)
(704) 232-0605 (M) / (704) 365-1661 (Firebird)
- David Tang


1st project, 'Thank You Lord' released in 1997. Songs express not only my own trials and tribulations, but how I overcame them by faith and the joy of knowing the Lord for myself. 2nd project, 'Release Your Faith', received air play on Praise 100.9 in 2006



'I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me' Philippians 4:13

Catrina Holman Pegues, the first of four siblings entrusted to her parents, Raymond and Margie Holman, was born to sing. Her early childhood manifested her talent to sing as she would be eager to perform at the annual family reunions. She was educated in the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system and graduated from Myers Park High School. Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC became not only a place to worship, but also allowed her to develop her God-given talent. As a member of the youth choir, the Choir director recognized the gift of this young lady and encouraged, trained and provided every opportunity for her to grow in confidence.

Thomas Moore, vocal coach at Community School of the Arts, recognized the strength of this beautiful voice and became her teacher and mentor, encouraging her to use her talent in various recitals and programs.

Through many experiences, her talent grew from a hobby to a ministry. As a young adult being led by the Holy Spirit, she used her gift to spread the word of God through song under the direction of Joyce Johnson at Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church. Catrina knew at that point her gift must be used for the glorification of God.

In 1994, the 'Outlook Magazine' for Employees' of Mecklenburg County, N.C. carried theses headlines, 'County Employees' Prove It: We Have Talent.' Catrina, with the Department of Social Services, was a final round performer. Catrina sang her way into second place among the many, many performers and earned a monetary award along with others prizes.

She sang background with many groups, but with 'New Generation', it began her introduction and exposure to professional studio recording work. The group was honored as an opening act for one of gospels legends, Shirley Caesar, in Charlotte, N.C.

Through the years, Catrina has had various opportunities to display her gift from the Lord; from singing the National Anthem at the Charlotte Hornets basketball game, the CIAA tournament in 2006, Charlotte Knights game and even at the Charlotte Checkers hockey game; to being a member of the backup choir for Dorothy Norwood; from a solo artist featured in the gospel explosion with Beverly Crawford; to being a member of the Charlotte Choral Society and many other musical accomplishments.

Catrina's was the grand prize winner of the '2004 GIMME THE MIKE-CHARLOTTE' talent competition sponsored by WSOC Channel 9. She was selected from over 600 singers and reached the finals, where she took home the grand prize. And from that experience, she was asked to be one of the opening acts at Ovens Auditorium for Yolanda Adams and Detrick Haddon. Catrina performed her second solo concert in October 2006 in Washington DC sponsored by The Virginia club.

Catrina, through much prayer, produced her first solo project in 1997 titled,'Thank You Lord'. And the songs written by her, express not only her own trials and tribulations, but how she overcame them by faith and the joy of knowing the Lord for herself. Her life long dream is to become a professional solo artist, traveling and evangelizing; spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the hurting and lost souls through song. Catrina just completed her second solo project, 'Release Your Faith', which received air play on Praise 100.9 in Charlotte NC in August of 2006. And she is currently working on her third project.

Catrina is a member of City of Life Ministries International and on March 26th, 2006, Catrina was ordained as a minister at City of Life Ministries International.

In March of 2007, Catrina will be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa with Samaritan's Feet. Samaritan's Feet is an International ministry focused on bringing a life-changing message of hope to youths and children through sports and recreational adventures. They provide relief to hurting people displaced due to poverty, ravaged wars, and religious persecution. They demonstrate compassion by washing and equipping their feet with shoes, and touching their hearts with the love of God. This special missions group was founded by Rev. Emmanuel & Tracie Ohonme. Samaritan's Feet's goal is to equip the feet of 10 million impoverished people, with 10 million pairs of shoes, over the next 10 years.

God has opened another door, and Catrina has another opportunity of be used in the mission's field. On July 19th of 2007, Catrina will be traveling to Georgetown, Guyana, South America with Samaritan's Feet again. Samaritan's Feet is an International ministry focused on bringing a life-changing message of hope to youths and children through sports and recreational adventures. They provide relief to hurting people displaced due to poverty, ravaged wars, and religious persecution. They demonstrate compassion by washing and equipping their feet with shoes, and touching their hearts with the love of God. This special missions group was founded by Rev. Emman