Gospel is a genre of music deeply rooted in American tradition. So it’s only right that it will be a focal point of the week-long Wawa Welcome America event in Philly.
On Sunday at 7 p.m., more than 150 singers and praise dancers from throughout the tri-state area will put on a gospel concert at Independence Mall. The man who helped bring it all together is Alex Ingram, an icon in the Philadelphia gospel music scene.
The 60-year-old Philadelphia native serves as the Minister of Sacred Music at Deliverance Evangelistic Church of Philadelphia and will lead the special gospel choir that will perform both Sunday night as well as on July 4th during the big concert on the Parkway. For Ingram, gospel has always been an important part of his life.
“Basic gospel is my roots,” he said. “I grew up in the church. I came up playing the organ in the church so that’s basically my foundation.”
Ingram first played in the church choir at the Refuge Deliverance Worship Center where his grandmother, the late Reverend Henrietta Betrand, served as the pastor.
He continued to hone his skills while playing in the school band at Strawberry Mansion Jr. High School under the tutelage of Grammy-nominated gospel artist Gabriel Hardeman Jr. Along with gospel, Ingram also found inspiration from some of the secular music of his day.
“Of course I liked some R&B back in the day, you know Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire and all of that,” Ingram said. “You know we listened to that to kind of incorporate the two and came up with this kind of contemporary sound.”
Ingram’s career in gospel continued to flourish and he served as the Music Minister for the Fellowship Tabernacle Church of Philadelphia and the Assistant Music Director at the Zion Baptist Church in Ambler before coming to Deliverance Evangelistic.
Ingram also became a member of the Recording Academy and thrived as a musician, producer and songwriter for several gospel artists, including his mentor Gabriel Hardeman, the Philadelphia Mass Choir of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller and The Enon Tabernacle Mass Choir and Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Potter’s House Mass Choir.
He’s also received several honors during his career, including the Gospel Hall of Fame Honors Award from the Philadelphia Gospel Music Association in 2014.
For Ingram however, the joy he gets from gospel music doesn’t come from personal accomplishments but rather the music’s ability to truly create change.
“I guess in the 60s and the 70s with Dr. King, a lot of times the church had a great part in changing the culture of the country, of our nation,” he said. “I think the church played a big part in bringing people together, unifying our country.”
Ingram sees both Sunday’s and Wednesday’s concerts as great opportunities to continue that positive impact.
“I hope that it’s really a blessing for somebody to hear a song or a word or something that will really encourage them to say, ‘Listen, I don’t have to live like this, I can do better,’” Ingram said. “And from that seed that’s planted, change their life or turn their life around.”