Praising a man of praise.
Harold McNeal was about music.
Harold McNeal was about Faith.
He approached both separately with unending passion.
When his two worlds collided, it was certainly something to behold.
Harold passed away a week ago after medical struggles for some time.
During that time, however, he never strayed from those two pieces that made him who he was. As a member of St. Paul AME Church and the acclaimed “Men of Praise” singing group, Harold had ample opportunities to share his faith through song.
For the most part of the last several decades, Harold had been making music. From Earth, Wind and Fire, to the “Vadicans” to Madison County Arts Council (MCAC) musical revues, his velvety vocal tones have garnered him many accolades.
His soulful renditions of “Mustang Sally” and “America the Beautiful” at a couple of the MCAC events are still talked about today.
As strong as his passion was for music, that flame burned even brighter for his faith. He found a way to combine the two loves with not only the Men of Praise, but by recording a number of CDs with a slate of local musicians which included Clint Morse, Ernie Sparks, and Joe Blaho — as well as Chase, Tracy and Mark Potter.
His Gospel CD, “When Praises Go Up, Blessings Come Down,” was inspired by his mother Theresa who not only introduced her son to the joy of his faith, but who also cultivated his love of music. The CD not only included a song which Theresa wrote (“There is No Greater Love”), but also one on which she played the piano (“Heartache”).
Harold found a true kindred spirit in Clint, as the two shared commitments to faith and music. The duo performed together as often as they could.
Harold and I met a few years ago through Clint and the Potters. I was fortunate enough to participate in some MCAC events in which Harold sang. Additionally, his Men of Praise group combined with the Music Men of London Barbershop Quartet (of which I’m a member) for a number of charity activities. It was through that he found another kindred spirit in Music Men member Paul Oswalt.
Most importantly to me, however, was that I had the pleasure of calling Harold a friend.
Harold had a sense of humor and charisma that drew you in.
But then there was that voice — a soulful singing voice that grabbed you and held on.
There is no doubt that the Heavenly chorus now has another soloist.
Jeff Gates is a contributing writer with The Madison Press.
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