Yolanda Adams, left, and Cece Winans perform onstage at "We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston," at Nokia Theatre on Oct. 11, 2012.
CHRIS PIZZELLO/INVISION/AP Enlarge
CeCe Winans believes gospel music can bring you to the heights of tranquility, even when you’re in the depths of despair.
It’s swaddling for the soul, she will tell you; a joyful noise that will take your pleas or praise to God faster than any Internet connection or Twitter account ever could.
The 10-time Grammy winner knows whereof she speaks. She’s been singing contemporary gospel nearly since the day she was born into a family that has literally made praise music its business.
Business is good these days, including a 7:30 p.m. concert at Cornerstone Church in Maumee Friday, where she will appear as part of its Heaven on Earth conference.
The eighth of 10 children and the oldest of three girls, CeCe Winans was born into a family that spawned eight distinct recording acts, including her older brothers, The Winans, and another brother, BeBe, with whom she’s recorded nine albums and had several crossover hits.
Those gospel-fueled songs include the 1993 R&B chart-topper Addictive Love, and a remake of The Staple Singers I’ll Take You There with Mavis Staples.
“I’ll be performing stuff from the old songs to the newest ones that I have,” she said from her home in Tennessee. “My singers will be coming with me. The church I’m going to is awesome. We’ve been there a couple of times. It should be pretty exciting and uplifting.”
In addition to a mantle full of Grammys, she also has a mantle full of Dove Awards [there are 20 of those], the pinnacle of religious recording. Having sold more than 7 million records, she ranks among the best-selling female gospel singers in history.
Ms. Winans considers gospel both a cry and celebration, designed to share a message of faith with both the heavens and those still roaming around on earth.
“That’s the great thing about singing gospel; it’s always going to make you feel better because of the power of the message,” she said. “Of course, we also want people to be entertained. If it’s something you don’t like to hear, you’re not going to get the message.
”The important thing is that [concert-goers] have something to take with them to be reminded that God loves them, that whatever they’re facing God is bigger than the problem.
“If they come in happy great, they can leave out happier.”
Because she arrived near the end of the sibling line, Ms. Winans recalls that her older brothers had been performing professionally for years before she entered the business on the PTL Club in 1982.
“My mom and dad met in a youth choir and they had all of us singing growing up. I don’t think we ever knew we would do it professionally, but we started out so young that doors started opening.
“Because there are so many of us [siblings who sing], the first half had already started while I was still in school. Even before that my parents would have family concerts around Detroit, where we’d all sing. It just sort of naturally happened.”
She arrives in Toledo a day after her 51st birthday – and after an extended absence from the recording studio. In the interim she and her husband Alvin Love II launched their own church in Nashville, TN.
“Three years ago my husband and I started a church, and that’s been awesome,” she said with obvious pride. “It’s a new calling [for me]. It started with college age kids, and just to see a new generation that is godly and wants to do the right thing is awesome.”
CeCe Winans understands the cynicism of those who say it’s hard to have faith in a world where mass shootings touch everyplace from preschools to college campuses, and drugs routinely destroy the lives of friends and family members.
She was, after all, one of Whitney Houston’s closest friends, and was godmother to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina. One might imagine a double tragedy like that would test her own faith.
“I don’t think there’s any words to describe a loss like that,” she said quietly. “I still can’t believe it. At the same time, I guess you’re just not surprised when drugs are involved in anybody’s life. Most of the time it doesn’t turn out well. I pray for the family. I still can’t believe Whitney’s gone, but now to see that Bobbi Kris is gone too … you just can’t even come to grips with it.
“When you hear and see things like [mass shootings at Columbine, New Town and Oregon], it lets you know how bad we need our faith. Without faith we’re not going to make it. We need God real bad. That would be my response. Don’t lose your faith [in the face of tragedy]. Find it.”
CeCe Winans has been a gospel singer so long she never had a chance to explore other options. One can’t help wondering what an alternate life might have been.
“If I wasn’t a gospel singer I guess I would be doing what I’m doing now – which I did not know I would be doing – and that’s pastoring a church with my husband. Beyond that, I’d probably just be a wife and mother, because God knows that’s a fulltime job.”
CeCe Winans will appear in concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cornerstone Church, 1520 S Reynolds Rd, Maumee. Tickets are $10 in advance, $20 VIP. All seats are $20 at the door. Information and purchase: 419-725-5000 or http://cornerstonechurch.us/
Contact Mike Pearson at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6159
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