An Evening with the Legendary Clark Sisters

On April 14, Yale Institute of Sacred Music was thrilled to host the legendary Clark Sisters for a concert, symposium, and masterclass. The sold-out concert in College Street Music Hall  was attended by 1500 members of the Yale and New Haven communities, while twelve thousand more joined via livestream. The evening featured an organ set from Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark and a surprise appearance by gospel megastar Kierra Sheard, the daughter of Karen Clark Sheard. A community choir drawn from the New Haven area joined the Clark Sisters for part of the concert.

The Clark Sisters are an American gospel vocal group consisting of four sisters: Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark-Terrell, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Karen Clark Sheard. They are the daughters of gospel musician and choral director Mattie Moss Clark. They are credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream and are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: “Is My Living in Vain?”, “Hallelujah”, “He Gave Me Nothing to Lose”, “Endow Me”, their hit song “Jesus Is A Love Song”, “Pure Gold”, “Expect a Miracle”, and their largest mainstream crossover gold certified, “You Brought the Sunshine.”

The Clark Sisters are renowned for their vocal stylings, dubbed as “The Clark Sound.” They incorporate high and fast melismas, acrobatic trills and riffs, and deep, soulful growls, or “squalls.” The sisters are also known for the individual distinctive sounds that they contribute. Jacky (contralto) is known for her soft, smooth, deeper vocals. Dorinda (mezzo-soprano), the “jazzy” sister, inputs scats and riffs. Uses her piercing soprano vocals that can be clearly heard on early tracks. Also known for her runs and high melismas, Karen (soprano) is known for her unique riffs, runs, growls, scats, very vast vocal range, ability to belt whilst in the whistle range, and has also been known to implement an “echo” in her live performances. Twinkie is known for her complex runs, riffs, powerful mixed-voice belts, soulful squalls and deep growls. Twinkie (Soprano/Mezzo-Soprano/Alto/Contralto/Tenor/Baritone) is credited with being the “heart of the Clark Sisters.”
Early in the group’s development, Twinkie was the chief songwriter, music and vocal arranger, producer, and also possessing a wide vocal range from soprano to a low baritone.

The Clark Sisters have won three Grammy Awards. With 16 albums to their credit and millions in sales, the Clark Sisters are the highest-selling female gospel group in history. Read more (link is external)