ISM to host the legendary Clark Sisters

April 5, 2023

From April 13-14, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music will host two days of events with the legendary Clark Sisters, a group that has been on the vanguard of gospel music for more than half a century. Winners of three Grammy Awards, and with sixteen albums to their credit, the Clark Sisters are the highest-selling female gospel group in history.

The events will include a daylong symposium and a masterclass on Thursday 13th at Yale’s Greenberg Center and Marquand Chapel respectively, and a concert in College Street Music Hall on the evening of April 14th. In-person tickets are sold out for all events, but they can be viewed either via livestream or via Zoom.

The four sisters—Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark-Terrell, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Karen Clark Sheard—are the daughters of gospel musician and choral director Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. They are considered to be pioneers of contemporary gospel music. Some of their best known crossover hits include, You Brought the Sunshine, Is My Living in Vain?, Hallelujah, He Gave Me Nothing to Lose, Endow Me, Jesus is a Love Song, Pure Gold, and Expect a Miracle.

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.” Each sister also contributes distinctive sounds. Jacky (contralto) is known for her soft, smooth, deep vocals. Dorinda (mezzo-soprano), the “jazzy” sister, inputs scats and riffs. Karen (soprano) has a vast vocal range with unique riffs, runs, growls, scats, and the ability to belt whilst in the whistle range. Occasionally she implements an “echo” in her live performances. Twinkie (soprano/mezzo-soprano/alto/contralto/tenor/baritone) is known for her complex runs, riffs, powerful mixed-voice belts, soulful squalls, and deep growls and is credited with being the “heart of the Clark Sisters.” Read more about the Clark Sisters.

April 13 “Eternal Gain” Symposium and Masterclass

Timed to coincide with the Clark Sisters residency at Yale, the daylong symposium will explore the distinctive musical, spiritual, and cultural contributions of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and the Clark Sisters. A distinguished group of speakers—Ambre Dromgoole, Dr. Almeda Wright, Dr. Ashon Crawley, Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Dr. Deborah Smith Pollard, Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman, Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, Dr. Henry Washington, Jr., Dr. Marla Frederick, and Dr. Todne Thomas—will discuss how the Clark family’s careers and legacies illuminate a host of issues for the music(s) of the Black church, including gender, kinship, instrumentality, fashion, media, and the music industry. View the symposium program here. For those who don’t have in-person tickets, you can join via Zoom by registering for one or both of the symposium sessions. Register for the 9 a.m.-1:15 p.m. session and/or register for the 4-6 p.m. session.

The Masterclass will take place on Thursday April 13 from 2:15-3:45 p.m. and can be viewed via livestream.

April 14 An Evening With The Clark Sisters

The evening concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed at this link. In addition to the Clark Sisters set, there will also be an organ solo from Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark, and a performance with a community choir composed of singers from New Haven and the surrounding areas.

During their visit, the sisters will be interviewed for the Yale Library’s Oral History of American Music (OHAM) collection. These video-recorded testimonies will then become part of the OHAM’s Major Figures in American Music Collection.  Read this recent post for some background on ISM’s collaboration with OHAM.

The Clark Sisters’ visit is being co-sponsored by ISM’s Interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church and the following schools and departments at Yale: Andover Newton Seminary, Yale School of Art, Belonging at Yale, Chaplain’s Office, Degraffenreidt Resource Fund and 320Y Fund, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, Yale Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Yale Divinity School, Yale School of Drama , Yale School of the Environment, Film and Media Studies Program, Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Nursing Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, Department of Religious Studies, and the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.