In the arrangement by producer Robin Gordon, the chords provide clear voice-leading so listeners can anticipate the inexorable path of Mondaine’s melody. The electric bass lends support from below, and a backbeat drives steadily toward musical resolution and the promise of the lyrics. The choir reaches a soaring crescendo.


This is classic, old-school gospel, made popular by Andrae Crouch and others in the 1970s and ’80s. Whether or not you subscribe to the belief system it expresses, its appeal is undeniable. It helped Ray Charles become a star and is the basis for the soul music of the ’60s that transformed American popular culture.


Mondaine, a classic singing preacher, learned these techniques, he says, “under the careful tutelage of people like James Cleveland,” the father of contemporary gospel music. He also learned from his mother and father, both gospel singers, while growing up in the family choir in St. Louis, Mo.

These sophisticated techniques, designed to grab and hold a listener, are “extraordinarily inclusive,” Mondaine says, because they are able to reach beyond the converted and those raised in the community that produced them.


“It has always been in my heart to transcend the limits of the black church,” he says. The concert scheduled Friday at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts’ Newmark Theatre to debut his CD is a step toward that goal.


Previous performances by Mondaine’s performing arts church, though they featured gospel greats such as Willa Dorsey, have been held in the Kenton neighborhood. Now, this higher-profile stage “allows us to move in circles that can lend more support for our program,” he says.


That program’s primary focus, Mondaine says, “is the African American male between the ages of 20 and 40. A disproportionate number are in jail, and their children are affected by their absence.”


The Celebration Tabernacle performing group –made up of the interracial choir Belief and its backing funk/jazz band, the 25th Hour (including trumpeter Farnell Newton and a string section led by Oregon Symphony’s principal violist, Jennifer Arnold) –has also scheduled a performance at the Schnitzer Concert Hall in August.


Taking another step, the choir recently added choreography, reminding us that gospel music’s power comes from its ability to generate movement, whether in body or in soul.


ILLUSTRATION: Apostle E.D. Mondaine in the studio