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July 12, 2004

Boston Globe

When the LoveTones harmonize on old-time spirituals such as ''Steal Away" or ''Wade in the Water," the only sound you hear is harmony itself. The Newton gospel quartet specializes in a cappella performances of songs with origins that can be traced back to slavery. This traditional approach makes the group, based at the Myrtle Baptist Church on Curve Street, distinct in an era when most of their peers are trying to take gospel into a more contemporary realm, with drum machines and hip-hop beats.

'It became apparent that there was something deeper in that music," Cooper said. ''When you sing a cappella, people listen to the words more carefully. We began looking for more spirituals. Gospel was created in the 1930s and consists of faith-based songs written by individuals. Spirituals, on the other hand, were songs that did not have a single author but evolved over time, starting in slave times."

The group sings regularly around the region. They often perform a program called ''Hidden Meanings," reflecting the lyrics of spirituals that slaves sang, yearning for freedom. ''The song 'Deep River' talks about crossing over Jordan," Cooper said. ''Jordan was used by slaves as a metaphor for the Ohio River, the point of freedom where they'd be in a free land."

When they're not working at their full-time jobs, the group members have also appeared on gospel programs with stars such as Shirley Caesar and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and can also be found offering educational programs in schools and libraries. Instead of assigning each member a vocal part, the LoveTones shift between lead and background parts in the midst of each song. Walter Cooper, for instance, speaks in a deep baritone but often sings in a soaring falsetto. More

Posted by acapnews at July 12, 2004 10:07 PM


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