The Detroit Youth Choir (DYC) has recorded a new version of the Academy Award-winning song “Glory” from the Ava DuVernay-directed film Selma. The recording represents an effort to support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Like so many across America, the DYC singers and their families have been deeply affected by the collective pain experienced by the Black community following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, as well as the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Black health. They felt compelled to join the many voices calling for positive social change.
“It would be remiss of us to stay silent in the midst of a fight that hits so close to home for many of us,” said Anthony T. White, artistic director for the Detroit Youth Choir and Performing Arts Company. “DYC is an organization that serves young black students, we strive to instill confidence in all our members to use their voices both on and off the stage and work as a team through an ensemble approach to create positive social change. Through this song, we raise their voices up in solidarity with all those demanding the end of racism.”
In 2019 the Detroit Youth Choir captured the hearts of America, taking second place in America’s Got Talent. Their televised appearance showcased its talented members, all from Metro Detroit and ranging in age from 8 to 18.
The song “Glory” (written by John Legend, Common and Rhymefest for Selma) serves as a powerful anthem and has been updated for its time with new rap lyrics created by former DYC member and rapper IndigoYaj (aka Jayla Smalls). A special edition of the track has been released featuring upcoming rapper Kid Jay (aka Jason O’Banner Jr), providing a platform for others to put their own voice behind both the song and the sentiment it conveys. DYC also hopes to collaborate with other rappers so they too can bring their voice of positivity and unity to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Experiential ad agency/production house Imagination brought together an all-star Detroit-based creative team, including Grammy award-winning mixer and producer Gerard Smerek and Scotty Gatteno from Yessian Music to develop the arrangement with DYC’s White and music director Donnell Mosley.
The new version of the song was recorded on June 26, 2020 in The New Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Ferndale and music and sound house Yessian’s recording studios in Farmington Hills, Mich.. The recording features over 40 DYC members, who undertook daily health screenings, practiced social distancing during rehearsals and recording, and wore masks when not filming/performing.
The music video that accompanies the song is just as emotional as the lyrics and features iconic Detroit landmarks, including the Persian School, Michigan Central Station, Monument to Joe Louis (the fist), Power to the People Mural, St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Detroit Barber Co. in Corktown and the Spirit of Detroit monument.
Directed by Everett Stewart and produced by Imagination, the “Glory” music video landed Yessian Music and its collaborators the number one slot in this quarter’s Top Ten Tracks Chart.
The idea to record a DYC version of ‘Glory’ was first conceived and made possible by Imagination which has maintained a partnership with DYC since 2019. Alistair Wilson, managing director of Imagination Detroit, said he was inspired with the idea after seeing his old school friend David Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma share his own personal experience with racism on social media. “My team and I were moved to act by something David said: ‘Black people didn’t create this situation we find ourselves in, therefore, it can’t be on us to change it. It’s going to be down to all of us.’”
Oyelowo shared, “This rendition of ‘Glory’ by DYC moves me to my core. As it did in our film Selma, this version captures our historical and daily cry for justice and equality as Black people in America.”
“Music has the power to impact people’s lives,” said Brian Yessian, chief creative officer at Yessian Music. “We are honored to partner with this talented team to inspire, educate and create unity in the quest to wipe out racial inequalities. Through the power of sound and the heart of the DYC, we hope to touch the lives of people not only in America, but across the world so we can make a difference together.”
Smerek added, “I have spent a good portion of my career in the studio or on the road with some of the most amazing black artists in modern music history. When you are granted this amazing opportunity to be around such musical genius you quickly realize it’s not about you and your message. I was their vessel. It was my job as a producer/recordist/mixer/engineer to help them tell their story.”
Click here for this quarter’s Top Ten Tracks Music Chart
Client Detroit Youth Choir’s “Glory” music video Agency Imagination Detroit Alistair Wilson, agency lead; Stefania Walkowiak, Ashley Carey, executive producers; Rob Cousineau, producer. Production Imagination Detroit Everett Stewart, director; Corey Gipperich, DP. Postproduction Imagination Detroit Nick Sullivan, editor; Davis Nixon, colorist; Zack Jacobs, VFX. Music “Glory” (song from the motion picture Selma), written by John Legend and Common. Detroit Youth Choir Anthony White, Donnell Mosley, vocal arrangement, additional lyrics; IndigoYa, rap lyrics. Yessian Music, Detroit (music recording, producing, arranging, mixing) Brian Yessian, partner/chief creative officer; Gerard Smerek, song producer/exec producer, mixer, recordist, engineer; Scott Gatteno, Pro Tools recording engineer, vocal editing, technical engineer; Mark Chu, music arrangement & adaptation, track production and all programming; Michael Yessian, partner/head of production. Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ Chris Gehringer, mastering. Audio Post Yessian Detroit Gerard Smerek, mixer.