Looking for an example of the East Coast gospel choir sound? Professor Ronnie Felder & the Voices of Inspiration Community Choir fits the bill. The group’s thunderous, full-throated traditional gospel singing style and lively, engaging rhythms are emblematic of the “hard gospel” East Coast sound pioneered in the 1960s by fellow Brooklynites Bishop J.C. White and the Institutional Church of God in Christ Radio Choir.
The Reverend Dr. Ronnie Felder was born in Brooklyn, New York, to the Reverend Early B. Felder and Nellie Felder. He grew up in his father’s church, Second Calvary Baptist Church on Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn, and started singing in the choir at age two. By age nine, he was taking formal lessons on organ and offering his keyboard skills in the service of the church.
Felder further developed his musical acumen as a member of Bishop Albert Jamison’s Triboro Mass Choir and the New York Fellowship Mass Choir under the direction of the late Reverend Timothy Wright. He sang with recording artists Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White and Minister Keith Pringle. Armed with this experience, Felder formed his own choir, the Voices of Inspiration, in Brooklyn in 1989. Not only does he direct the Voices of Inspiration and sing lead on some selections, but he also writes and arranges much of the music the group sings, and even designs and makes the choir’s robes.
The Voices of Inspiration released its first live recording, Just Been So Good, in 2002 on Frederick Knight’s Juana imprint, a label distributed by Malaco Music Group. The debut album features artists who helped foster Felder’s gifts along the way. This includes Bishop Albert Jamison, now chair of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, who leads the title track. Bishop “Mr. Clean” White renders his own composition, I Got a Brand New Record. David Bratton, composer of Hezekiah Walker’s smash hit Every Praise, plays organ and Reverend Isadore Jackson renders You Can Make It!, composed by Joeworn Martin, the choir’s musical director and co-producer.
In 2012, the Voices of Inspiration released an independently produced single, I Found the Lord Jesus. It delivers its message with the same force of the group’s earlier material.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary on October 18, 2019, Professor Ronnie Felder & the Voices of Inspiration can reflect on a career that has taken them across the breadth and depth of the United States. Six current members have been with the choir since its founding and several more have more than 25 years of service. Their anniversary musicals bring together some of the nation’s most beloved gospel groups and solo artists.
Now, in addition to his music ministry, Professor Felder is preparing to succeed his father as pastor of the Second Calvary Baptist Church.