Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Singing from the Heart
By Marsha Gallardo
Her voice has a deep, soulful quality. There is nothing canned or prepackaged in her delivery. When Martha Munizzi sings, it's as if the words are being pulled out of a dark well and poured onto thirsty ground.
"Because of who You are I give You glory / Because of who You are I give You praise / Because of who You are I will lift my voice and say / Lord, I worship You because of who You are..."
"I started singing 'Because of Who You Are' as I was washing my kids' hair while they were taking baths... The popular tune, penned in 1996 and now sung in churches around the world, also captures the essence of this vivacious singer who grew up around racist attitudes. Munizzi's soulful style of praise and worship has become a surprising hit among fans of black gospel music. Her albums regularly top the gospel charts, and songs such as "Glorious" are played frequently on gospel radio stations.
Although Andraé Crouch, Fred Hammond and Stevie Wonder are among her favorite songwriters, Munizzi says she never set out to draw African-American listeners. "I never tried to sing or sound a certain way," she says. "I wouldn't even know how to do that. I just always wanted to sing better and to sing from my heart."
Touching the Heart and Soul
Today Munizzi is helping to tear down racial divides in the body of Christ. For the last two years she's won Stellar Awards, which traditionally have recognized the achievements of African-Americans in gospel music. She received Stellars for New Artist of the Year in 2005 and Special Event CD in 2006 for her Christmas album, When He Came. The Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album Grammy nomination that she received this year for Say the Name—the first of her four CDs to date—is further indication that she is recognized as a viable gospel singer...
On the Gospel Road
All this is happening to a Southern woman who was raised amid her white relatives' racial prejudice toward blacks. Her grandparents wouldn't allow The Cosby Show to be seen on their television. When black Christian vocalist Larnelle Harris performed at the church Munizzi's uncle attended, her grandfather refused to go.
Munizzi didn't grow up singing black gospel music. She was taught the Southern brand. Her parents were traveling evangelists for the Assemblies of God. Along with their three young girls, they were a family singing group as well...
Dan was the group's bass player. His first impression of Martha was marked by "how fun she was … and how genuine." They fell in love, and after they married, they got involved in leading worship in local churches. Because the churches were predominantly attended by African-Americans, they began a change of course.
"Since we wanted the music to be attractive to the people coming, and we wanted to relate, we started learning more and more Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin-type music," Dan explains.
Martha's songwriting abilities bloomed after she and Dan joined the worship ministry at Faith World, then a new church in Orlando that grew from 12 people who met in a living room to thousands who attend the church's several Sunday services. Martha led worship there for eight years, being paid as staff only the last year. Dan was general manager of the church's recording studio and marveled at Martha's progression.
"A few times, right in the middle of a worship service, Martha would start writing a new song and singing it, and we didn't have it on tape. So I said, 'From now on we're always going to tape the services in case something like that happens...'"
You can read the rest of Charisma Magazine's compelling story about Martha Munizzi here. In an honest interview with BlackGospel.com, Martha offers her counsel on how to successfully balance raising children, be a loving wife, and manage a blossoming Praise & Worship ministry.
Related: Are you a music-lover? Why not send a Christian music e-card to a special friend! Also, please offer your hearty congratulations to Sharon, a first-time pregnant Mom-to-be and worship team member in Singapore. And I'm sure song-writer Kristina P. would love to hear you sing "happy birthday" to her son Josiah, who is celebrating his exciting first birthday this week.
Photos courtesy of cmcentral (Flickr)
What's your favorite genre of worship music?