Pharrell Williams Returns to Church Roots in New Choir Series

VOICES OF FIRE (L to R) BISHOP EZEKIEL WILLIAMS AND PHARRELL WILLIAMS in VOICES OF FIRE. Cr. ANTONY PLATT/NETFLIX © 2020

Netflix and popular music producer Pharrell Williams are gearing up to release a new series that follows the making of a new gospel choir meant to “take gospel music to a new dimension.”

The unscripted project titled, “Voices of Fire,” premieres on Nov. 20 and follows Williams and gospel leaders as they embark on a quest to find undiscovered talent in Williams’ hometown of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The series includes a very animated choir director Patrick Riddick and Williams’ uncle, Bishop Ezekiel Williams. Ezekiel Williams is the general overseer, pastor and founder of Faith World Ministries.

As reported by Billboard, the streaming service ordered Williams’ docuseries focusing on efforts to build “one of the world’s most inspiring gospel choirs.”

Although Williams is widely known as an Academy-nominated mainstream music producer and artist, he is returning to his childhood roots, which began in the Church.

Throughout the show, Williams is seen sporting a hoodie that says “Ye Must be Born Again.” The artist often uses Christian language when talking to his uncle or the singers.

“Pharrell and I grew up together in the same church. We came up in the Pentecostal Holiness Church. His grandmother was our church mother,” Riddick told The Christian Post in a recent interview.

“It lets you know the Bible is right. It says to ‘train up a child and the way they should go and when he is older, they will not depart,’” the music director added, giving God praise for Williams’ return to God and his willingness to share it publicly with Netflix viewers.

Below is an exclusive clip from “Voices of Fire”:

The following is an edited transcript of Riddick’s interview with CP, where he details the journey of putting together a 75-member multicultural choir with Williams and the bishop. Riddick revealed how God has hand-selected each member.

Christian Post: Can you share briefly a little bit about your own testimony and your journey of becoming a choir director, popularly known as the “Prince of Choirs?”

Riddick: I would say about 1987-1988, I started out being an organist first. That was my passion, my heart. I witnessed a special that Patti LaBelle did. It was called “Going Home to Gospel.” There was this guy with the choir, it was Ricky Dillard. I hadn’t seen anybody command a choir and move like he moved.

Ever since that moment, I started directing. I dropped organ and I’ve just been doing that ever since. That’s been nearly 30 years or more. When I started directing choirs, I think I was maybe 10 or 11. So ever since then, I’ve been going.

I’m very laid back and I can be very shy unless I’m working in music. I’ve been told that I’m like one of the people that everybody that’s coming up that wants to direct gospel choirs and things, they watch and glean from, so they started calling the Prince of Choir.

CP: There’s a quote heard throughout “Voices of Fire” where the bishop says he wants “this choir to take gospel music to another dimension to produce something the world has never known.” What does that mean? 

Riddick: When they say that, in my heart, to me, it’s bringing gospel music back to where it was. Years ago, when you talk about all the many great artists that came out — whether it be Tina Turner, the Beatles, whoever — a lot of those artists from the ’50s, ’60s and the ’70s, in particular, everything they got, they were inspired by what was done in the Church.

Somewhere along the way, as we got into the ’80s, the ’90s and the 2000s, it began to be reversed.

Everything in church [became] influenced by what is done secularly. Taking it to another level, I believe it’s when we become proud of who we are and what we do and we’re confident in that and we do it to a level of excellence that now, here again, the R&B, the pop, the rap, jazz, whoever, they start looking at us again, and being influenced by what we do, because it’s just so fresh. It’s just encouraging. It’s just inspirational. It’s cutting edge.

CP: The choir is multicultural. Why do you think it’s important to have a racially diverse gospel choir?

Riddick: I believe that when you’re talking about the Gospel, it is the good news. And then when you put it with music, it is the good news shared musically. The Gospel is for everybody who would believe, who will receive. How can you segregate or limit that or exclude?

Talk about music, which is the only universal language in the entire world out of every language there is. A quarter note on the C is a quarter note on the C wherever you go. So you have gospel, it’s inclusive of everybody. I think having a choir with many different backgrounds and nationalities it’s just amazing.

It was different for me because I had never done that. With all the years that I’ve been working with choirs, it has just been with African Americans. So it’s been an amazing experience! Some of those people that are in “Voices of Fire,” I talk to on the regular and I feel like had it not been for the choir, I probably would never come in contact with them and I would’ve never had these great and new relationships.

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Source: Christian Post