A cappella gospel
Newport News, Virginia
The Chosen Few stand firmly in the great tradition of unaccompanied religious singing in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Though scarcely a handful of African American a cappella quartets sing in Virginia today, black four-part harmony groups were singing in Virginia at least as early as the mid-1800s, and the Tidewater region alone produced more than two hundred such groups in the century following the Civil War. The “modern” quartets were born in the late 1920s and early 1930s with the emergence of groups like the Heavenly Gospel Singers, the Blevins Quartet, and most notably, the Golden Gate Quartet of Norfolk. Norfolk quickly became known as the “home of the quartet.”
Based in Newport News, Virginia, Cornelius Smith and Bobby Hopson founded the Chosen Few in 2012. The group is comprised of members from various churches across the Hampton Roads region. In addition to Smith and Hopson, the group includes James and Larry Carter, Isaac Ellison, Minister Kenny Watts, Deacon Joseph Plez, Genesis Arrington, and L.D. Hiriams. Together they received the 2015 and 2017 VEER Magazine awards for best gospel group.
For their debut performance on the Virginia Folklife Stage, the Chosen Few will be joined by Reverend Tarrence Paschall, longtime leader of the legendary Paschall Brothers of Chesapeake. The late Reverend Frank Paschall Sr. originally formed the ensemble in 1981 with his five sons: Tarrence, Frank Jr., Wendell, Dwight, and William. Reverend Paschall Sr. passed away in 1999, but Tarrence and his sons have carried on his legacy. The Paschalls performed frequently at local area churches and festivals in the Tidewater area, as well as nationally known festivals, including the National Folk Festival, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Roots of American Music Festival at Lincoln Center. In 2012, the Paschall Brothers received the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows on traditional artists.