Mahalia Jackson

Recent Articles

PBS commemorates television show that featured the best in gospel music



By Charles Hallman
Staff writer


Over the course of three decades, the late Sid Ordower brought the greats and some-to-be greats in gospel music each week on local Chicago television. The likes of Albertina Walker, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples — along with her sisters and their father, James Cleveland, and Otis Clay routinely appeared on Jubilee Showcase, a half-hour long show that ran from 1963-1984. Beginning November 30 and throughout the month of December, PBS will air a 50th anniversary commemorative television special on Jubilee Showcase, said his son Steve Ordower in a recent MSR phone interview. “He was an owner-operator [of his shows], which was pretty rare back in those days,” he explains. “Unfortunately, the first 13 episodes were erased, and he was livid. Continue Reading →

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Sandra Robinson Hodges speaks with MSR about her starring role in Mahalia



By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


Going backstage to the dressing room, congratulating Sandra Robinson Hodges on her triumphant turn as Mahalia Jackson at the Old Log Theater, you’d never guess she’s Twin Cities’ gospel royalty, not from her unassuming manner.  She greets you with a warm smile, “Just call me Sandy,” and is fairly shy about accepting compliments. For the record though, if she did have a swelled head, it’d be hard to blame her. For one, she has worked and recorded with her more famous brother, Robert Robinson, most notably at the well-renowned Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir, where she succeeded him as artistic and executive director.  Among her accomplishments in the area, she performed as both lead and background vocalist on albums for the Sam Davis Gospel Ensemble, Minneapolis Gospel Sound, and Excelsior Choral Ensemble.  Nationally, she has performed with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Jermaine Jackson, and Prince. There’s considerably more, including her present tenure as choir director at Park Avenue United Methodist Church and chapel choir director at Bethel University.  Suffice to say, illustrious singer Sandra Hodges (SH) indeed is an entity of considerable consequence.  During the run of Mahalia, where she shared the stage with gifted performers Dianne E’Laine and Sam Reeves, she granted the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder an email interview to reflect on her artistry.  

MSR: How did you come to do this role?  Were you in the premiere? Continue Reading →

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Old Log’s Mahalia delivers in song



Old Log Theater’s Mahalia, starring Sandra Robinson Hodges with Dianne E’Laine and Sam Reeves Old Log Theater is flaws and all, a winning ticket. This is the second go around for the production, which premiered at Old Log in 1994. Ironically it’s a slice of African American theater, indeed, a page from Black history, running way out in the middle of White suburbia. And well worth the trip. Local gospel luminary Sandra Robinson Hodges is a natural to play Mahalia Jackson, the music immortal, civil rights activist and cultural icon. Continue Reading →

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Book shines with stories of the Great Migration of Blacks to the North


A book review
By Lissa Jones

Contributing Writer


The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010) is authored by Isabel Wilkerson, the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (1994), and the first African American to win the prize for individual reporting. In this work, Wilkerson makes the story of the Great Migration, a Black movement that changed the face of the United States of America, come alive. The title, the author advises, was inspired by none other than another Black legendary great, author/poet Richard Wright: “I was leaving the South/To fling myself into the unknown/I was taking a part of the South/To transplant in alien soil/To see if it could grow differently/If it could drink of new and cool rains/Bend in strange winds/Respond to the warmth of other suns/And, perhaps, to bloom.”

Wright’s poem oozes the essence of Wilkerson’s work in this novel — Black people, many of them sharecroppers, almost all barely able to afford a ticket North, resisted anyway. Literally at risk of death they packed up everything they could carry and went North hoping for a future free of the devastation of the segregation in the Jim Crow South. Wilkerson tells this tale so vividly, and she makes it personal — she tells the story through the lives of three of the brave souls who helped change the face of this nation: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster and George Swanson Starling. Continue Reading →

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