Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir
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Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir

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"Our roots writers choose their must-see folk-fest side-stage essentials"

Calgary Folk Music Festival-July 21-24, 2005 - Gospel-influenced sessions are always one of the hits of the festival, especially when they involve Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, who tend to whip the crowd (as well as the other musicians on stage) into a testifyin’ frenzy. Come for the music, stay for the salvation.

- FFWD Weekly July 22, 2004


"LINDA TILLERY WITH THE CULTURAL HERITAGE CHOIR ****GLASGOW CATHEDRAL"

AS THEIR slightly stuffy name suggests, Linda Tillery’s Cultural Heritage Choir are more than a gospel choir. This five-strong a cappella ensemble of Melanie de More, Lamont van Hook, Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell and their leader Linda Tillery, plus percussionist Simon Monserrat, adopt a scholarly approach to traditional black music, with a repertoire of spirituals, field songs, blues, jazz and work songs from all over the United States, the Caribbean and Africa, all of which were instructively introduced by Tillery at this candle-lit Celtic Connections debut.
Fortunately there was nothing stuffy about their delivery and, despite the formal ecclesiastical setting, the audience were quick to get into the choir’s groove as they ricocheted fluently from gospel lament to earthy blues to funky soul. The transition from, say, the naked soul of an archetypal gospel tune such as Roll Jordan Roll to a demonstrative singalong was never jarring.
They made their mark immediately with the haunting Good News, the Chariot’s Coming, showcasing van Hook’s formidable falsetto and Tillery’s reverberating scatting, but it was not long before they managed to coax the crowd out of their reverie and on to their feet to shake their booty to the strains of The Old Lady Come From Booster . After learning that the "ranky-tanky" dance style was present in all of us (but particularly in a hirsute gentleman in the audience called Keith), we were instructed in the appropriate ebonic response to their intuitive harmonies, enchanting contrasting vocal tones and overall emotional impact. And that response was: "Say yo’ bid’ness!"
In their vocal arrangements, the choir effortlessly drew connections between their traditional material and the soul, funk and R&B styles which sprouted from these roots. James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone are as much a part of this group’s cultural heritage as Louis Armstrong and slave songs.
But their musical kinship stretched further than even they probably realised. During one stately, dolorous work song, Tillery’s rich resonant voice was not leagues away from the ululating female choirs of Bulgaria. As for the Celtic Connection, the desire to strut one’s funky stuff and holler spontaneous approval knows no cultural boundary. Sho’ ’nuff!
- FIONA SHEPHERD

- THE SCOTSMAN - JAN 28, 2005


"Linda Tillery & Cultural Heritage Choir and Frie - Say Yo' Business: Live! : Expert Reviews"

EXPERT RATING:  
From AMG Reviews
Wild and crazy, African rhythm-driven gospel/folk done a cappella style. Linda Tillery Cultural Heritage Choir's live performances have always had a vitality that exceeds the energy of their many studio recordings. Although these performances were recorded live at various folk festivals in Calgary, Edmonton, and other locales, this is more than just a typical concert recording; it's an international, intergenerational, cross-genre, cross-cultural event with highlights of RB and world music of the past and present. Featuring appearances by RB and folk greats Richie Havens and Wilson Pickett, plus new artists like Kelley Joe Phelps, Eric Bibb, and Laura Love, this performance brings together the best and brightest world stars from Australia, Senegal, and Venezuela. The Choir draws material from various unique sources, including Negro spirituals ("Wayfaring Stranger"), Bobby McFerrin (the throbbing vocal percussion jam "I'm Angry"), and James Brown (a party medley called "Jaime Moreno's Jam" featuring African-flavored approaches to his best-loved tunes). Most of the tunes are done with voices creating all the lead melody and rhythmic lines, but Wilson Pickett's rich bluesy performance of "Don't Let Nobody Drag Yo' Spirit Down" features Eric Bibb's swampy acoustic guitar accompaniment. Emma Jean does a great Aretha Franklin-flavored lead vocal on the feisty and spiritual "Stand Tall and Be Happy," while wailing vocalist Laura Love is very much in the Natalie Merchant vein. This business is irresistible.

- Jonathan Widran - All Music Guide


Discography

Good Time, A Good Time Tuizer Music
Front Porch Music Earthbeat
*Shakin A Tail Feather Music For Little People
Hippity Hop Music For Little People
**Say Yo Business Earthbeat

*1999 Grammy Nomination Best Performance For Children with Taj Mahal, Eric Bibb

**California Music Award

Photos

Bio

While singing for the play Letters From A New England Negro in 1992, Linda Tillery was introduced to some field recordings of traditional African-American music. "My God," she exclaimed, "this is what I've been looking for!" Tillery poured over documentary recordings and ethnomusicology research to uncover a treasure-trove of spirituals, work songs, field hollers, and slave songs. Within months, she assembled the Cultural Heritage Choir: Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell, Melanie DeMore, Brian Dyer and Simon Monserrat.

These songs are "survival music." As Tillery explains, "this music, particularly the spirituals, has kept Black people alive through slavery, night rider's raids, and segregation. This is the music that has been used as a support for just about every political movement in this country. People take spirituals, reword them and march together in the name of freedom and justice."

In addition to songs and chants, delivered through such stylistic forms as call-and-response, multi-layered harmonies, and repetitive verse, the CHC repertoire includes intoned sermons, folk tales, polyrhythmic percussion, and dance.