- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams is spreading yuletide cheer with her captivating voice as part of "Christmas in Washington," Turner Network Television's holiday special, a live broadcast from the National Building Museum in Northwest.

President Bush is expected to be among the honored guests at the program, which features Miss Adams, Dr. John, Alison Krauss & Union Station, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Brooks & Dunn and Lee Ann Womack. The same-day broadcast airs tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Though many vocalists might be intimidated to perform for such a prestigious crowd, Miss Adams says she focuses on the music while onstage rather than who is in the audience.

"This is my third time performing for the president," says Miss Adams, who will sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

"He told me, 'Thank you for your music. It's helped a lot of people, and it's really helped me,'" she says of Mr. Bush.

Miss Adams, 41, says receiving praise from individuals as diverse as Mr. Bush and rap artists Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z confirms that she is fulfilling her calling in life.

Since her debut album, "Just As I Am," she has been hailed as the most versatile contemporary gospel singer since Aretha Franklin. In 2001, she garnered the Soul Train Music Award for the best R&B or soul single for a woman with her song "Open My Heart."

"My purpose is to inspire and encourage people," she says. "What I do is important for society right now. So many songs out there have no meaning. It's the same thing over and over, 'Baby, baby, baby.' Gospel music makes people look at their lives and look inward for peace."

Miss Adams is a former schoolteacher and the eldest of six siblings, but she diligently pursued a singing career. Although she was signed previously to the Verity and Tribute gospel labels, her most recent release, "Believe" is through Elektra, a mainstream company. She also released a 2000 holiday album on Elektra, "Christmas With Yolanda Adams."

Miss Adams says she considers her relationship with Elektra a wonderful opportunity to introduce her songs to new audiences. She aims to attract fans from all walks of life without straying from the gospel roots that nurtured her talent. She wants spirituality to be at the center of her songs without limiting her musical expression.

"I was courted by many secular record companies," she says. "Elektra didn't want to change me. They said, 'We love exactly who you are and just want to get you out to people.'"

Miss Adams, who has been singing in church since age 4, says it's almost as natural to her as speaking. Her mother is the music director at the church Miss Adams attends in Houston.

"Everyone knows that in us is a space for God," Miss Adams says. "That space has to be filled by God and nothing else. That's why music is so important. It guides you to the God space. It bridges the gap between race, gender and religion."

Miss Adams also received inspiration from listening to legendary vocal stylists Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughn. She says her next studio album probably will be released in September 2003.

"For me, it was never a temptation or challenge to figure out what I was going to do," she says. "I record music that comes from my heart. If you don't, you cheat yourself. If you're not giving your best, people know."

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