SLIDESHOW: West Seattle's Lou Magor going on national tour with Pat Wright and Heart
When the band Led Zeppelin was honored at the Kennedy Center last December the Seattle band Heart performed the Zeppelin classic, "Stairway to Heaven" in a version so powerful it literally made Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant cry. What Heart did was to include the 80 voices of Joyce Garrett's Washington Youth Choir to sing later sections of the song that builds to a powerful crescendo. The YouTube video of the performance has been seen well over a million times.
That reception led to Heart calling on the talents of Seattle's Pat Wright who leads the Total Experience Gospel Choir, now in its 40th year, (TEGC) and the musicianship of Kenyon Hall's Lou Magor to provide the choir backing for their performances of the song on a 35 city tour this summer. Wright and Magor have been rehearsing the TEGC in West Seattle and recruiting singers across the nation. Not always an easy task. They hope to have up to fifteen singers perform for the four minutes of the eight minute plus song that will close the show in each city, but realize that they themselves will be singing on many of the performances.
Wright who has been singing since she was three, grew up in the church in Carthage, Texas. She has perfect pitch and can sing multiple parts from tenor to soprano. She's been leading the TEGC for decades.
Magor, who has been playing keyboards since he was 6, will provide the piano talent and work with Wright to rehearse the choir recruits in each city for most of the tour.
They are also making a recording to assist the singers along the tour.
The tour starts in West Palm Beach Florida on June 17, and Magor and Wright will arrive earlier to work with the singers they've hired there. Then it's on to 34 other stops across the nation.
Both Magor and Wright have toured before and have known each other more than 20 years. Magor did a tour with Mary Martin, one of his musical idols, around the east coast and Wright, who counts Ray Charles as a major influence, has met and performed for President Obama.
The last leg of the tour, along the West Coast will feature the TEGC at Bumbershoot in Seattle when the full 28 member choir will perform. But first they had to rehearse and learn their parts, as a singer from the choir sang a guide vocal and Lou Magor played piano.
"I don't think I could find anyone bigger or better than Heart," said Wright, "they were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April." Still she's encountered issues in cities in the south. "They sing gospel, they don't sing rock and roll. It's been a handicap to find gospel choirs. They don't want to perform with any rock group." She has often heard, "I'm not sure what my pastor would say."
She's a pastor herself and said that she interprets the lyrics as having a biblical influence. She said, "This line sold me, 'Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.' which I interpret to mean heaven or hell."
Do they consider themselves rockstars now?
"Lou had to introduce me at an event recently and when I told them we were going on tour with Heart, they gave me a standing ovation."
"So she's already a rock star," said Magor.