Our next awardee is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso who is a fifth generation musician in a long line of jazz and church musicians. Mrs. Marjorie Gabriel Burrow is recognized as an anointed instrument of God by those who have experienced her gift.
As a toddler Marjorie’s fascination with the piano often sent her climbing the upright in her home to play its keys. At the age of six, Marjorie started taking private lessons from Ms. Elinor Harvey, a neighborhood piano teacher, and quickly became Ms. Harvey’s prize student. It was Ms. Harvey who encouraged Marjorie to pursue a more advanced study of music.
Marjorie received her K-12 education in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit and is a graduate of the former all girls Immaculata High School. Marjorie is a graduate of Wayne State University and has studied under some of the most gifted and talented musicians ever: Father Clarence Rivers, Walter & Edwin Hawkins, Lucien Deiss, Joe Wise, Avon Gillespie, Reverend Charles Nix and Donald Vails to name a few. In recent years, she has performed and recorded with her mother, Evangelist, Dr. Bessie Watters Gabriel, a gospel recording artist.
While she was in 8th grade, Fr. Charles Moffatt, pastor of St. Benedict de Moor Parish, expressed an interest in Marjorie playing for the Sunday Mass. Marjorie’s father informed her that it was her choice to play at church and not an obligation for her to play at church. Marjorie elected to continue telling her dad, “I am on a mission for God.” Marjorie’s exposure to the Catholic and Baptist churches by both of her grandmothers had a tremendous influence on her becoming a church musician.
It was at St. Benedict de Moor Parish that Marjorie met the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary. She vividly remembers the Sisters’ presence in the community and the late Sister Mary LaFerla who, along with Sister Fiorentina, encouraged her musical efforts at the parish. After five years of playing for St. Benedict the Moor, the parish decided it was time to pay Marjorie for her services, $50.00 a month. Marjorie recalls that was music itself to her ears.
In 1981 while at St. Cecilia Parish, Marjorie began her 10 year work venture as Assistant Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Detroit Office of Black Catholic Affairs under the leadership of the late Deacon Wyatt L. Jones, Jr. During this time she founded the first diocesan Black Catholic Gospel Choir in the city of Detroit. This choir, the Metro Catholic Gospel Choir, formerly the Archdiocesan Gospel Choir, has participated in celebrations for Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Bishop Moses B. Anderson. After 32 years, the choir continues to minister through music for various occasions, including fundraisers for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, battered women, orphaned children, aids victims, literacy programs, jail ministry and refugees. The choir has recorded 2 CD’S.
In 1984 under the leadership of Archbishop James P. Lyke, Marjorie’s efforts along with those of two other musical giants–Rawn Harbor and Leon Roberts—produced the first African American Hymnal, LEAD ME, GUIDE ME:THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CATHOLIC HYMNAL, that was published in 1987 by GIA publications. The Preface to the Hymnal contains the following accolade and I quote: “However, a special word of appreciation must be given to Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow (chairperson) and Rawn Harbor and Leon Roberts, who as a Sub-Committee devoted untold hours, including vacation times, and incalculable energies to the study, selections and even composition and arrangement of the hymns. In all this, Mrs. Burrow was a great collaborator and organizer. To state it pointedly, without this gifted and dedicated trio, there would be no African American Catholic Hymnal.”
Since 1992, Marjorie has been the minister of music at St. Augustine-St. Monica Catholic Parish.
For several years, Marjorie and the choir have helped to raise funds for and awareness of the Sisters Nigerian Mission. The Sisters’ home is also home to the Metro Gospel Choir, for it is in the Sisters’ home that the choir prays, plays and practices. Home Visitor Sister Mary Frances Roberts, a dedicated charter member, remains actively involved with the choir.
We recognize Marjorie for her extraordinary ability to spread the Word of God through her inspired gift of music and for the works of service the choir has done under her leadership.
Ladies and gentleman, it is a sheer delight to present to you as a recipient of the SISTERS HOME VISITORS OF MARY OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO COMMUNITY AWARD, MRS. MARJORIE GABRIEL- BURROW.