|'Father of contemporary Christian music' goes on tour at 84|
|Written by Eric Tiansay|
|Thursday, 13 December 2012 09:14 AM America/New_York|
Known as the "father of contemporary Christian music," Ralph Carmichael, 84, will make history in 2013 as the oldest conductor to embark on a 30-city tour.
"This tour is a dream come true for me," Carmichael said. "We want the audience to be entertained, but we also want to present the gospel loud and clear. We will use a big band, a full symphony and a mass choir to accomplish that in every city."
Kicking off March 1 in Austin, Texas, the Ralph Carmichael Legacy Tour will feature 30 major symphony orchestras, the Ralph Carmichael Big Band and the Ralph Carmichael Mass Choir, recruited from local communities. In select cities, the tour will feature guest soloists with members, including Larnelle Harris, Wayne Watson, and members of The Archers and First Call. Holt International, an adoption agency established more than five decades ago, will serve as a sponsor for the tour.
Carmichael is known for his transitory influence on the style of music that was slowly embraced by mainline churches in the early 1960s. But he also worked with the biggest names in music, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Tex Ritter, The Carpenters, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Boone, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald.
Carmichael also composed music for such popular television shows as I Love Lucy, Bonanza, The Red Skelton Show and The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, and he had a longtime association with pianist Roger Williams, with whom he scored the million-selling hit song "Born Free." He also worked with World Wide Pictures, the production company that produced movies for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In the 1960s, Carmichael formed Light Records/Lexicon Music to be a vehicle for a new musical genre he had helped to create, which would become known as contemporary Christian music. Carmichael remembers doing church workshops introducing the new material to ministers of music, and the reaction was not always positive.
Despite criticism, Light Records went on to sign and launch the careers of Christian music icons Andrae Crouch, the Winans, The Archers and Resurrection Band, among others. One of Carmichael's contemporary hymns, "Reach Out to Jesus" was recorded by Elvis Presley on the singer's 1971 GRAMMY Award-winning album of sacred songs, He Touched Me.
Carmichael was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1985. In 2001, he was inducted into the National Religious Broadcaster's Hall of Fame.