Young Bronxites Bringing Gospel To The Mainstream

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The 12 members of Livre all had similar upbringings. They spent large parts of their formative years at churches throughout the Bronx.

By spending so much time at churches, mainly thanks to parents or relatives, they developed an affinity for gospel music. Many of the band members, who range in age from 18 to 28 were also the offspring of a gospel group called the Bronx Mass Choir.

But like each new generation, the members of Livre had to put their own spin on things.

The group, which formed in 2008, is trying to use their brand of urban R&B-infused gospel to bring spiritual music to mainstream audiences. The group is under contract with gospel label Glory2Glory and plans to release its debut album by the end of the year.

Five of the band’s members play instruments, while the rest are singers.

“Our vision was always to reach people that are not being reached,” said keyboardist and founding member Andre Plaskett, of Baychester. “Not just singing to a church crowd. We wanted to go out and sing in clubs, basically to minister to the people that some gospel artists are afraid to reach.”

At 28, Plaskett is the group’s elder statesman and one of its leaders.

“Every time we would go to a concert I told them we would stay for every artist’s performance,” he said. “If you want people to support you, you have to support them.”

There has been a lot of standing for the members of Livre. They spent the summer touring the country and have done shows as far away as Israel.

Many of the group’s members decided to postpone college so they could focus on their music careers.

Twenty-one-year-old Malik Spence graduated from the Bronx High School of Performance and Stagecraft on Boston Road and enrolled at Onondaga Community College near Syracuse. He didn’t even last a semester, so he moved back home, auditioned for Livre and got in.

“Right now I’m devoting myself fully to the gospel music and music in general,” he said. “But I do plan on going back to school to study music theory and music composition.”

Spence’s mother is the bishop at Cathedral United Baptist Church on Prospect Avenue. He is also a young minister there.

“We’re all pretty much preacher’s kids,” he said. “And gospel is what we grew up on. We also listened to R&B but gospel played the main role, as far as out music careers go.”

Ariel Malloy just started her senior year at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, so she has had to schedule her recording and performing around school breaks and weekends.

“It’s pretty difficult,” the 21-year-old said. “I just try to come down to the Bronx as much as I can. Whenever they really need me.”

And despite getting the chance to do shows around the country and around the globe, Malloy’s preferred place to play is Green Pastures Baptist Church on Ward Avenue in Soundview, where he uncle is pastor.

“I would have to say my church is my favorite church to perform,” she said. “Because a lot of my family and friends are there.”

Updated 5:09 pm, October 21, 2011
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