When sitting down with Bishop J. Drew Sheard for any amount of time, it would undoubtedly become apparent that ministry has been flowing through his veins since he was a child. His parents, Bishop and Mrs. John Henry Sheard, played a vital role in planting the seed for what the world is now witnessing through this man of God. After accepting the Lord at a young age, Bishop Sheard earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Education and soon thereafter, a Masters of Education degree in Mathematics. It became very clear that Bishop Sheard was destined for greatness in whatever capacity he chose. But despite being an accomplished scholar, Bishop Sheard realized early in his life he was called to ministry and he followed that leading.
After serving in many different capacities locally and nationally, one being choir director, Bishop Sheard's love for ministry and music could be seen from the very beginning. It is easy to understand how multi-GRAMMY® Award winning singer and gospel legend, Karen Clark Sheard, caught his attention over 30 years ago and now holds the title as First Lady of Greater Emmanuel Institutional (GEI) C.O.G.I.C. in Detroit.
Now after leading this 5,000 member flock for the past 28 years, Bishop Sheard is making good on something that he has wanted to do for some time now and that's re-introduce the world to his very own Greater Emmanuel Institutional Mass Choir through the release of their third project in decades, (Bishop J. Drew Sheard Presents) GEI LIVE, on Karew Records, the label founded by Bishop and First Lady Sheard.
Bishop Sheard's passion for the Word of God and music that enhances the Word has always been a focal point of his ministry. This passion is also shared by GEI's minister of music and co-producer of the live project, Derrick Starks. "Bishop Sheard preaches straight from the Word. He prides himself on being balanced, but still holds true to the foundation and principals of the church. Yet he is also progressive in his thinking and so this project exemplifies all of that."
GEI's minister of music Derrick Starks, along with Bishop Sheard's namesake, J. Drew Sheard II, produced the entire project that took place last summer to a packed church! This project was a full-on family affair as members of the family used their talents in making this recording nothing short of amazing. The auspicious night reunited the legendary Clark Sisters, and additionally, 3 of The Clark Sisters...First Lady Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark Cole and Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark all shared solo duties on individual songs, along with The Sheards' daughter, Kierra Sheard. What's even more notable is that Bishop Sheard even took to the mic to show off his vocal skills with the rest of the family.
The 80 voice mass choir prepared an entire three months in advance to ensure this live recording would not only be a pleasurable listening experience, but would give one a feeling that you had just walked out of a church service.
Starks speaks about how unique the GEI LIVE project is. "This is a project that has something on it for everyone. From the youth to the 80 year old church mothers, it was important that there was a balance to the project where any and every age could be ministered to."
The lead single "Hang On" features GRAMMY® nominated singer and The Sheards' eldest, Kierra Sheard and the GEI Youth Choir. "Anytime I had conversations or overheard Bishop talking with someone, over time I realized he always said, 'Hang on in there. It just became something he started to say consistently. So when I wrote this I knew this would really be a great theme for the overall project because if nothing else, after speaking with Bishop, he's going to tell you, you will make it and 'hang on in there," according to Starks.
And that's just the beginning, because throughout the project the exceptional features continue with standout moments like the Sunday morning crowd favorite "Press On," which features Bishop Sheard singing, the toe tapping, up-tempo, churchy "I Owe You Praise" featuring Karen Clark Sheard, and the album's only original hymn "I'm in His Arms" with Dorinda Clark Cole that takes you back to the old school days of Sunday service. And there's even a bonus track that you cannot leave out with the incomparable Twinkie Clark called "I'm Delivered."
Producer J. Drew Sheard II, offers a little surprise as well, as he leads on the urban, feel good, choir groove, "My God Is Real," interjecting a very fun moment during the recording.
The album is chocked full of songs that would fit into any church service on any day of the week with "Never Alone," the go-go inspired "Never Let a Day Go By" and the energetic "Worthy Worthy."
Meanwhile, anytime the legendary Clark Sisters reunite it's always a moment. This night was no different as the four sisters were brought together once again on "Look To The Hills." According to Derrick Starks, "It was just an honor to get them altogether. All of The Clark Sisters are members of the church but it still can be challenging to get all of them in the room at the same time to rehearse because of their super busy schedules. So after church one Sunday they all stayed and we had one rehearsal and that was it. But they are so gifted and anointed that the night of recording you would have thought they rehearsed for months. It's really a testament to who this family really is and what God has blessed them with."
Bishop J. Drew Sheard and First Lady Karen Clark Sheard are beyond excited and proud of what the entire GEI COGIC church is presenting to the world through this new project. Bishop Sheard exclaims, "This project will bless your entire family. All generations. Get ready for a total GEI experience!" And First Lady Karen Clark Sheard echoes Bishop's sentiments with, "If you are looking for inspiration, consolation, and want to be ministered to, I assure you this GEI Live project will provide all of the above and more. Expect to be blessed as you listen."