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The Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir celebrates four decades of finding glory in one voice…made of many

by Industry Staff

Though the Brooklyn Tabernacle has one of the most fascinating and varied religious institutional histories in the city—having been established in 1847 as the Central Presbyterian Church and going through several buildings sites until culminating in a massive, 7,000-capacity “Third Tabernacle” at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Greene Street—by the early 1970s it was a congregation that could boast barely a few dozen members. It was then that Carol and Pastor Jim Cymbala took over leadership, and in the four decades since have led a ministerial renaissance to form a fast-growing, multicultural, nondenominational Downtown church of 17,000 members that combines religious gatherings, community outreach of considerable scope, and one of the most dynamic musical organizations in the Northeast: the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

A pastor’s daughter herself, and one of six siblings, Cymbala began the choir with just nine singers, but by the early 1980s saw both a blessing and perhaps a fundraising opportunity to further the church’s mission by recording the choir. The 30 years since have seen a growth in membership to its current 280-strong complement, and no fewer than six Grammy awards for its 29 albums (the latest was Pray, released in February of last year), as well as appearances at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and Madison Square Garden. Perhaps most significantly, the choir performed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the 2013 second-term inauguration of President Obama.

An inspiring mix of seemingly disconnected ethnic and economic backgrounds, the choir is, Carol Cymbala observed, “a highly unlikely group of people… made up of attorneys and former street people, nurses, and ex-crack addicts, among many others.”

“None of us would have met if it weren’t for Christ,” Pastor Cymbala explained. “Our backgrounds are just too diverse…The choir sings not about a mere theological doctrine, but about what has happened to them. It’s not just the lyrics of a song; it’s a reality to each of them.”

The Brooklyn Tabernacle
17 Smith Streeet / 718.290.2000 / brooklyntabernacle.org

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