A voice of freedom worldwide

Elsa Harris
Elsa Harris

The fact fame and fortune has mostly eluded the supremely talented American gospel singer Elsa Harris – who plays at The Grand in Clitheroe next wek – does not concern her one iota.

The founder member of the Jessy Dixon Singers and the Chicago Gospel Choir has toured the globe with Paul Simon, singing on one of the greatest songs ever penned, worldwide hit Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Is it any wonder that intense experience has defined a remarkable life for a musical arranger who has appeared on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Songs of Praise’.

“Playing with Paul Simon on his world tour for eight years and featuring on two of his albums, ‘Live Rhymin’ and ‘Still Crazy’ transformed my life,” recalled Elsa, whose show at The Grand will mark Anti-Slavery Week.

“It was an eight-year experience which taught me so much about a man and his music. I still cherish the memories of that great era.

“I really didn’t realize the full impact of those moments until years later. I was mesmerized at the time.

Playing with Paul Simon on his world tour for eight years and featuring on two of his albums, ‘Live Rhymin’ and ‘Still Crazy’ transformed my life

“It was like I was dreaming it and it was the same when I played with Pat Boone, the wonderful American singer.”

The 68-year-old says she was always surrounded by music. Classically trained, her love for God, the church and religious music, led her in the direction of gospel.

In recent years, Elsa has become an ambassador for anti-slavery, and her debut album, ‘Let My People Go’, highlighting the worldwide cause.

The gospel star recorded her album of classical songs with a Northern Soul Band.

Through the Chicago Gospel Choir, she promoted the work of anti-trafficking charities to raise awareness about modern slavery.

“‘Let My People Go’ was an extremely emotional song to make, and it is shocking that slavery is still with us in the 21st century,” she said.

“My faith is very strong, though, and after the recording I became emotionally grateful for this blessed opportunity.

“I just pray that it will be used to set people free from captivity and the terrible bondage of slavery.”

She added: “Slavery has been prevalent in every generation, in one form or another.

“I don’t expect it to be totally abolished in my lifetime, but that doesn’t stop me from doing all I can to speak out and sing against it, and I’m dedicated to the cause.”

Elsa Harris is at The Grand, Clitheroe, October 24. Support from the Grand Choir, tickets £10. Call 01200 421599.

Tony Dewhurst