The following is a church-newsletter article by my father, James Ward.

As we observe Black History month 2006, I share with you this picture of Clara Ward. As far as I know, we are not related!
Ward was from Philadelphia, PA and in 1934 she was an accompanist for the Ward Trio, a family group that included her mother, Gertrude and her sister Willa. The group received national attention in 1943 when it sang at the National Baptist Convention. Afterwards they toured throughout the country, producing songs like “Surely God Is Able” and “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher.” This song made them one of the most popular female gospel groups of their time. Clara Ward was highly regarded for her ability to convey drama in slow gospel ballads and non-metrical hymns such as “When I’ve Done the Best I Can.” At New City, we know her best by her amazing song of hope and gratitude, “How I Got Over.”
In 1963 she performed in the first gospel musical written by Langston Hughes
entitled Tambourines To Glory. She made several successful tours in major U.S. settings including the Newport Jazz Festival. Clara Ward died on January 16, 1973.
As I have learned more and more about the music and worship of African-American Christianity, I have found a deep well of ideas and creative energy. It is not always something that I reproduce exactly as it was done originally, but the culture has made an imprint on my musical sensibilities.
Like many white Christians, the impact of black music on my ears has been initially through pop culture, and many of these singers and musicians either started in the church, or are still active participants in worship music. For me it has been Sam Cooke, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, and Take Six.
Clara Ward performed more secular music in the latter part of her career, and one wonders what the motivation might have been after a strong legacy of songs and ministry.
Of course, as Reformed Christians who seek to see all of life redeemed, we do not view the broader culture as off limits to the Christian artist, but rather we go forth in the power of the cross into the world with integrity and boldness.
To Clara Ward’s church based audience, though it was selling out to the world. That, of course, depends on many things in the music and witness of each individual before God and founded on his Word, not fundamentalist legalism.
This history lesson is as a reminder that as we emphasize the music and worship of the black experience this month, let us keep our ears and hearts open to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us. If this music is outside your box, ask God to give you a new appreciation for it. If this music is your own ethnic roots, look beyond sentimentality or pride to hear the sincere faith of its writers and performers.
picture and Clara Ward info came from here.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: