Gospel at Christmas: Ravenna celebrates the holidays with Christmas Soul

It’s Gospel time again. After the cancellation of the 2020 edition and the reduced version of last year, Christmas Soul returns to celebrate the arrival of 2023 again in a big way, from December 28th to January 1st. Artists arriving from Italy, France and the United States will contribute to making the Christmas holidays in Ravenna more magical, exploring the more spiritual and profound sphere of black music and also trying to avoid the stereotyped performances of this genre which we often see in our country. The Gospel is in fact the music of the Christian tradition of the African American people, sung in places of worship but not only, and based on rhythms and harmonies very close to Soul, Blues, R&B and Funk, it is engaging for everyone and is able to grasp and communicate the meaning and intimate spirituality of the Nativity. For this fourth edition, the festival, the Christmas “rib” of the now traditional summer Spiagge Soul, returns to Piazza del Popolo with evening shows and the midnight one on the evening of 31 December, which in previous editions saw the participation of thousands of people, as well as with the appointment at the Teatro Alighieri on the morning of January 1st, which is sold out every year. The review is organized by Municipality of Ravenna, Soul Beaches And Ravenna Foundation Events.

On Wednesday 28 December at 18 the Italian formation performs in Piazza del Popolo (where the concerts are always free) Goodwind & The Spiritual Gangwhich offers a musical exploration of spiritual songs, traditional gospel and the best known Christmas songs, followed on Thursday 29, again at 6pm, by the French Gospel Soul Celebration, a quintet led by Joel Rhinö that ranges between tradition and modernity thanks to a multifaceted vocal style. Salute to 2022 on the night of 31 December (starting at 11pm) is instead entrusted to Brent Jones & T. P. Mobb, a group that arrives on tour in Italy for the first time after having climbed the charts thanks to the successes composed by master Brent Jones, producer, musician and choir master who boasts numerous Grammy and Stellar Awards nominations. On the first day of 2023 at the Teatro Alighieri (at 11.30) instead we travel in the most authentic gospel tradition, relying on Nate Martin & SIGN (meaning Singing In God’s Name), founded in 2016 in the cradle of gospel music, the city of Chicago, and for the first time on tour in Europe. The events in Piazza del Popolo and the Alighieri Theater are joined by the approaching appointments of “Road to Christmas Soul”all hosted by the Covered Market.

«For this edition, finally in its complete and original format, we have decided to continue in a careful path of musical research, trying to avoid the usual stereotypes that often characterize the repertoires of gospel ensembles performing in Europe and in our country during the period Christmas, dividing the programming into two different focuses – explains the artistic director of Christmas Soul, Francesco Plazzi – For the afternoon concerts in Piazza del Popolo we decided to propose an approach to the genre with a European sensibility, involving two excellent ensembles from Italy and France, while for the end and beginning of the year concerts we selected two energetic US chorals both characterized by a great stylistic freshness and a wide mix of various musical influences in their sounds».


Wednesday 28 December, Piazza del Popolo at 18:00

A profound musical journey between Spiritual, Gospel & Christmas song. The explosive quintet captivates the audience with their great interpretation and intense vocal blend. It is led by Chiara Luppi, Stevie Biondi and Luca Bright (three of the best known voices in the Italian pop-soul panorama) and orchestrated by the arrangements of Maestro Michele Bonivento on Hammond organ and by Carmine Bloisi on drums. Clare Luppi is a “Cant-a-ttrice” of Italian-Armenian origin. The voice is sweet and powerful, he studied singing, piano, theater performing with artists such as Larry Ray (The Temptations), Ronny Jones, James Thompson, Vincent Williams, Mario Biondi, Alberto Fortis, Alan Sorrenti, Umberto Tozzi, Alexia, Dr. Feelx (Chiambretti Night). She is the voice of television theme songs and many national commercials. Stevie Biondi he grew up in a family of musicians: his grandmother sang in the theater and for EIAR (the future RAI), his father Giuseppe, aka Stefano Biondi, was a well-known songwriter in Sicily and his brother Mario Biondi is a singer, author, arranger and internationally renowned producer with whom he collaborates on a regular basis. Luke Bright, born in Recife (Brazil) is a vocalist with a vocal timbre rich in nuances that bring to mind the great soul tradition. Supported by a deep technical knowledge and an explosive temperament, Bright is making himself appreciated in the European music scene. Michael Boniventoproducer and keyboardist, has over 70 albums to his credit and twenty years of live experience with prestigious artists such as Dana Gillespie, Jan Harrington, Cheryl Porter, Joyce Yuille, Ronnie Jones, Vincent Williams, Carl Verheyen, Ian Siegal, Louisiana Red, Tino Gonzales . Carmine Bloisi he is among the most solid Italian drummers, he has played with the great masters of the Blues such as Robben Ford, John Mayall, Peter Green, Brian Auger, Rudy Rotta and many others.

Thursday 29 December, Piazza del Popolo at 18:00

A journey into the heart of the gospel along the banks of the Mississippi, through the Caribbean and Africa. Driven by Joel Rhino, great lover of vocal polyphony, this gospel quintet with four singers and a pianist is the alliance of experience and youth, tradition and modernity served in a dazzling vocal cocktail. The group is led by Joel Rhinö, an artist renowned both as a conductor and as a singer and producer of vocal and musical arrangements. The repertoire includes great songs in traditional styles and contemporary compositions, along with gospel classics in original arrangements. The training is impeccable: the contralto voice of Magdala Desruisseaux, with a clear and powerful timbre that dazzles the audience, the skilled soloist Jessica Ressot, a young soprano with great experience in Parisian gospel choirs, and Marie Nicole Leborgne, an expert contralto who seduces the audience with his charisma and vocal uniqueness.

Saturday 31 December, Piazza del Popolo at 11.00pm

Producer, musician and choirmaster who boasts numerous Grammy® and Stellar Awards nominations, singer and songwriter of extraordinary talent. With his urban group Brent Jones & TP Mobb he laid the foundations for Kirk Franklin and contemporary gospel. JDI artist Brent Jones’ new album “Nothing Else Matters” is the highly anticipated follow-up to “Open Your Mouth and Say Something,” which topped the Billboard charts for over 54 weeks, garnering widespread critical acclaim and numerous award nominations, including the 2019 Dove Award and the 2019 Stellar Award. A California native, Jones has had the opportunity to produce several projects, conduct many talented choirs, and assist hundreds of audiences, while carving his own space in the music industry. gospel music USA with his group, the TP (Total Praise) Mobb. Known for their hip-hop influences and electrifying beats, TP Mobb have been able to inspire not only young people looking for a unique Christian expression, but also people of all ages who love good music with an exciting and uplifting message. For years, Jones and the TP Mobb toured the world and recorded popular hits like “Midnight,” featuring Coko Clemons of R&B singing trio SWV, and “Goodtime,” the head-spinning groove featured on WOW Gospel 2000. With appearances on major programs network TV such as The Tonight Show and having toured extensively both in the US and internationally, including various European and African countries, Jones has developed a multicultural following worldwide. His experiences led him to become Music Director at the multicultural Valencia Christian Center, in Valencia, California, and later became the Artistic Director of the KJLH Radio Free Choir in the fall of 2014. In 2020 Brent Jones received the certification Gold & Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA) – certifying over one million album sales of “Awaken My Love,” his acclaimed collaboration with superstar Childish Gambino. Also in 2020 he is featured in the DreamWorks blockbuster film “Trolls World Tour” (with Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick and Mary J. Blige). For the first time on tour in Italy with his TP Mobb, he presents himself in a 10-piece formation with a rhythm section.

Sunday 1 January, Alighieri Theater at 11:30

Robust tones, reinvigorated sound, more markedly Gospel Soul rhythms made in the USA are the elements that make up the entire personality of Nate Martin & SIGN (Singing In God’s Name) founded in 2016 in the cradle of gospel music, Chicago. Nate Martin & SIGN quickly made themselves loved in the city of Chicago for their youth, energy and passion for God. Martin has few equals in excursions and vocal timbres, and this is his new sonic guise, less devoted to canons of romantic gospel and more inclined to modern spirituality, which manifests itself with groove-rich rhythms and ballads, raising the emotional level with emphasis and with the intention of transporting the audience in each song. Tradition and modernity go hand in hand as in the best episodes and in this dimension, between the rhythmic and vocal group contributions, one of the most full-bodied gospel live sets that can be witnessed takes place. In 2020 Nate Martin & SIGN received an Eddy Award for “Album of the Year” and in 2021 a Gospel Music Choice Award for “Band of the Year”. The group traveled throughout the United States spreading the gospel through song. For the first time in Europe, this line-up presents a set of religious music between traditional black spirituals and modern sonorities.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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