Sweet Heaven Kings



Biography

The Sweet Heaven Kings is the premier brass band at the United House of Prayer in Anacostia. The gospel brass band tradition is unique to this denomination. It was introduced into services by charismatic church founder Bishop Charles M. "Sweet Daddy" Grace. Grace established his first congregation in 1919 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, with an emphasis on the direct, physical experience of the Spirit. From the 1920s onward, as the church spread rapidly throughout the South, Grace began using brass instruments as the centerpiece of his all-day, all-night services. By the 1960s, trombones became the instrument of choice for House of Prayer bands, and groups were expanded to create a fuller, more multi-layered sound in the vein of large gospel choirs. The Kings of Harmony was formed in Washington, D.C., during this period and Norvus Miller emerged as the group's leader. Norvus "Butch Littlejohn" Miller Sr., who died May 1, 1994, described this music as "inspirational gospel whose purpose is to edify and glorify the Lord."

Sweet Heaven Kings is comprised of sixteen musicians, including two of Miller's sons, one of whom now leads the band. The brothers play first and second lead trombones. Instruments include three lead trombones (with two playing at a time), two sets of "run" horns (two trombones playing harmony parts), background trombones that simulate the body of the choir, sousaphone, baritone horn, and a percussion section with bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals. The instrumental "voices" are arranged in three- and four-part harmonies with the lead horns playing on top of the run horns. The music builds slowly through songs to a sustained crescendo known as "thundering," with lead players improvising and blowing with great intensity.
Sweet Heaven Kings