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Coy Landis Family Association Choir Concert

Saturday, August 27, 2011 @ 8:00 pm
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Three ensembles with familial and North Carolina connections are coming together for a very special afternoon of music and celebration: the Landis Family Choir, made up of members of five generations of the Landis family; The Creedmoor-based gospel group The Golden Echoes; and the all-female ensemble The Echoes of Heaven of Akron, Ohio, will perform in the South Granville High School Auditorium in Creedmoor on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 4 p.m. The performances will be filmed as part of a documentary project co-sponsored by PineCone, Folkstreams, and Davenport Films. This special concert is open to the general public. Admission is $5 per person.

The Coy Landis Family Association is presenting the concert as part of the Landis’s 77th annual family reunion. The family has many reasons to celebrate this year, particularly these two:

  • After a hiatus of several years, The Echoes of Heaven have come back together, and this performance will mark their formal return to performing!
  • After 25 years, the family is once again part of a documentary film project about their culture, community and lives – this time as collaborators in the film-making process.

The concert will be filmed as part of a sequel to a documentary about the Landis family and their community in Creedmoor. The original documentary project was the 1986 film A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and was shown nationally on PBS as a “Black History Month” special in the late 1980s. That film explored a rural black family in North Carolina intentionally using group singing to motivate and train its young and to bind generations together. It showed singing in parlors and on porches, in churches and at annual family reunions, in rehearsals and on stage at anniversary concerts. Performances by The Golden Echoes and The Echoes of Heaven were featured in that film. The film wove the performances together with interviews relating the music to the work and lives of family members in successive generations as they moved from the farm to the assembly line to the computer desk. A Singing Stream can be viewed in its entirety online at Folkstreams website.

Earlier this year, PineCone (the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music) received a grant from the NEA to work with Tom Davenport (Davenport Films, Folkstreams) to produce a sequel to A Singing Stream.

The new film will be an hour-long documentary about subsequent changes in the family, their music, and their community. Members of the Landis family will appear in the film and also take roles in the decision-making, planning, production, and editing of the film. They tell an authentic story through the lens of their own experiences. This film will be the first of its kind to trace the experience of one Southern African-American family over four generations.


The Echoes of Heaven formed in 1982 in Akron, Ohio. During the filming of the original documentary, Karen Landis Stallings had returned home with her sisters and other members of the Echoes for the annual family reunion. Under the direction of Karen’s father, Fleming Landis (b. 1925), they rehearsed in Kenneth Daniel’s mobile home on the day of the family reunion picnic, and Tom Davenport and his crew filmed their rehearsal (“Trouble in My Way”) and their performance at that year’s anniversary concert, including the impromptu moment when, in the middle of John’s finale to the song “Going Up to Meet Him”–a song expressive of not only the religious beliefs but also of the achievements of the Landis family–Karen jumped up to join John. Karen and John’s duet at the family reunion is part of the original film.

The Echoes of Heaven continued to sing together for several years after the release of A Singing Stream but dissolved due to work and family demands until November 2010. Now, 10 months later and more than 25 years after they started singing, the members are trying again, working around difficult work schedules and individual ministries to rehearse, and they value their joint musical message more than ever before. The group’s current members are: Sharon (Landis) Williams, Karen (Landis) Stallings, Lanettra Butler, Phyllis Alexander and Ledora “Dodie” (Alexander) Wallace.

This Echoes of Heaven’s style emulates that of the former Golden Echoes of Franklinton, NC, and Five Golden Voices quartet, of which their fathers were members. The Five Golden Voices sang gospel “jubilee” style, from which the Echoes of Heaven were trained by their fathers Nathan Alexander (only surviving member), and the late Iverson “Fleming” Landis, Sr.

Fleming Landis is the son of the late Bertha “Mangum” Landis, Brother of Claude Landis and the late “Big” John Landis (both of the Golden Echoes), father of Karen Stallings and Sharon Williams as well as a father figure to the entire group.


The current Golden Echoes group features two original members: Claude Landis (lead and background vocals) and Johnny Malone (guitar); the other original group members are deceased. The full group is: Johnny Malone (guitar); Claude Landis (lead and background vocals); J.P. Jenkins (background vocals); Andrew Green (background vocals); Kenneth Daniel (lead and background vocals); Bryant Malone (bass guitar); Phillip Daniel (drummer); Tevin Vass (keyboards); Lenny Tharrington (keyboards).

The young Landis brothers-John, Fleming, and Robert-along with a friend, Roy Braswell, began singing regularly as the Rising Stars of Creedmoor (the town nearest the family’s farm). The Rising Stars merged with the Nightingales of Kittrell in the late 1950s, both groups having lost members to war service and northern migration. The Nightingales, originally named for a community 20 miles northeast of Creedmoor, had been renamed the Golden Echoes by the Dixie Hummingbirds, a widely respected gospel group of the time. When the Rising Stars and the Nightingales merged, they decided to keep the name Golden Echoes.

Two Landis brothers from the Rising Stars joined the Golden Echoes: the lead singer and manager, John, and baritone singer Claude. Later, their nephew Kenneth Daniel was added as a lead guitar player. In joining the Echoes, John Landis made a clear choice against a career of performing on the road. While still singing with the Rising Stars, he was offered a job with Chicago’s Soul Stirrers, a nationally popular quartet who had just lost their best-known singer, Sam Cooke, to a career in rhythm and blues. Landis had only been married for two weeks when the Soul Stirrers approached him, and after talking it over with his new wife, who was not keen to only see him two or three times a year, he passed on their offer.

Wilburt “Johnny” Malone of the Nightingales joined the band as bass guitarist. The Nightingales also contributed lead singer Ronald Perry and singer Luther Foster, who specializes in falsetto. Andrew Green, a “new man” also from the Kittrell community, joined the group only five years before production began for A Singing Stream. In the film, Green is seen singing “back-up” but has since begun taking his turn at singing lead.

Gospel quartets emerged in rural North Carolina during the first half of the 20th century, and their music can be traced to earlier influences such as congregational and church choir singing of spirituals and hymns, the singing of traditional African-American songs while at work in the fields or with family members in the home, and the appearance of new kinds of performing groups that ranged from the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Hampton Institute Quartette to local groups of male singers who sang in their churches and at prayer meetings. “Quartets,” observes folklorist Glenn Hinson, “incorporated the close harmonies of workers singing in the fields, the falsetto of the hollers, the bass phrasings of the rhythmic work songs, and the syncopated beat of congregational handclapping into a unique musical sound that is still the basis of modern gospel music.”

Please join the Landis family at this special concert event celebrating and documenting heritage music of Creedmoor and beyond. For more information, please call 919-225-1736.

View the original documentary A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle on Folkstreams


This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Saturday, August 27, 2011
8:00 pm
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Rock Spring Baptist Church
3180 Bruce Garner Rd
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