Sharon Alexander offers Jospel choir workshops to song leaders, choirs, and the general Jewish musical community; teaching the theories and techniques of gospel singing and leading spiritual communities in ascending together to meet God.

This material can be taught in the context of a community or congregational workshop, or in a choir — leading toward a performance. Sharon is available to teach in various formats: a one-time lecture, a weekend workshop or shabbaton, as part of a weeklong conference, or, under special circumstances, as a weekly course.

The Shir Ecstasy Workshops cover topics including:

  • Becoming familiar with the African major pentatonic scale and understanding its ability to offer easy harmonization (Work, 1940; Roberts, 1998)
  • Learning how to incorporate rhythm instruments to maximally engage the body in movement
  • Learning the polyrhythmic syncopation and clap on the off-beat which are the hallmarks of gospel; the influence of the 9/8 blues rhythm, as well as the driving, forward-propelling 12/8 swing rhythm––to engage, arouse, and entrance the body, and to build group energy (Wilson, 1992/1999; Floyd, 1995; Darden, 2004/2006)
  • Learning how to use the tools of intensification: repetition, tempo increase, key modulation, and utilization of the elements of drive and overdrive (Lovell 1972; Roberts, 1998; Allen, 1991; Hinson, 2000)
  • Understanding the critical importance of such traditional community-building techniques as call and response, a bottom anchor line, aural learning, and participatory responses from the community (Floyd. 1995; Barnwell, 1989; Darden, 2004/2006; Jackson, 1964)
  • Understanding the role of the anointed soloist; coaching on how to use the voice as an instrument of emotive invocation (Southern, 1983; Burnim, 2006)
  • How using simple heartfelt daily speech and earworm melodies can create memorable heartsongs; and how to create a song structure that builds an upward trajectory (Ames, 1955/1990; Lovell, 1972; Cusic, 1990; Darden, 2004/2006; Hinson, 2000)
  • Why Praise (grateful hallelujahs) and Affirmation (the expression of intentional will; the collective exclamation of “Yes, God!”) are so important in organizing the entire congregation towards a joyful and even ecstatic experience. Including the metaphysical recipe of the praise-worship-glory cycle of the worship service (Heflin, 1990/2000)
  • The traditional African American rules for joining into the choir; using singing together to organize community and to empower group social action (Barnwell & Brandon, 1989)
  • Learning several pieces of authentic Black gospel music and providing access to some of the best contemporary Black gospel music being performed in gospel churches
  • Finally, learning how to use the techniques above to modify a promising non-gospel piece into a rip-roaring gospel-style hit!

Talks & Keynotes

Sharon is available to give talks (either in person or online) on:

  • The ecstatic structure of the Jewish worship service: Access to Prophecy & to Miracle
  • Gospel tools for composers, service leaders, and song leaders who wish to create more exciting and community-building Jewish ritual music
  • The ecstatic techniques of gospel choir
  • The role of resonant entrainment in ecstatic trance worship and healing: Lessons from the Gospel Church
  • Ecstasy as the experience of “out-of-body” perception
  • Creating community through ecstatic choral song

Video by Sherry Moore

Limmud, UK 2010