In 1972, Rev. James Cleveland (1931-1991), Founder and then President of the Gospel Music Workshop of America inc. (GMWA), had a desire to broaden the general membership’s musical awareness through exposure to another perspective of Church music. Rev. Cleveland’s intent was to display to the world that the Gospel Music Workshop of America was a diverse musical organization that encompassed more than the typical African-American music genre.
The members of the GMWA faculty were organized to establish the Alumni Chorale, a musical ensemble whose purpose was to perform compositions from the various styles of classical choral literature.
In 1973, the Alumni Chorale expanded to include all members of the GMWA family who could read and\or sing structured music, and who had a genuine interest in the artistic performance of the classical idiom.
In 1974, the Alumni Chorale was renamed the Thurston G. Frazier Memorial Chorale by Rev. Cleveland as a tribute to his close friend, who died tragically in 1974. Thurston G. Frazier was one of the founding group of musicians whom Rev. Cleveland called together in 1968 at the inception of the Gospel Music Workshop of America.
Today, the Thurston G. Frazier Chorale has a roster of over 250 musicians from all over the U.S., the Bahamas, and Japan, who come together at the annual Gospel Music Workshop of America to share their musical ideas and composition, and finally, the presentation of effective performance.
Thurston G. Frazier (1930-1974) was born in Houston, Texas but the family moved to Los Angeles, CA when he was a child. After singing in the St. Paul Baptist Church choir with J. Earle Himes, Thurston studied music at Los Angeles City College.
He gained fame as the Director of the Voices of Hope, a community gospel choir that he and Gwendolyn Cooper Lightener organized in 1957. Gwendolyn was the former pianist for Mahalia Jackson. Their first album, released in early 1960, included “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” by Albert A. Goodson.