Phenomenal is a word that many people who knew Robert Turner would use to describe his contributions.
The Indianapolis native gained national acclaim as a legendary gospel music artist, and at home he is remembered affectionately as a disc jockey and poor relief administrator.
Many of Turner’s friends and admirers will join forces next week to present a special event that will not only honor him, but also continue his legacy of bringing joy to those who are dealing with difficult times.
The Robert Turner Christmas Musical will be held on Sunday, Dec. 13th at 5 p.m. at New Haven Missionary Baptist Church, 3418 Schofield Ave.
The annual event, which was launched by Turner 49 years ago, presents some of the most talented gospel artists in the Indianapolis area performing Christmas favorites.
“For many years there was a legend in this city that helped catapult Indianapolis into the national gospel community, and that legend was Robert Turner,” said Demetrius West, coordinator of this year’s event. “We believe it would be an insult to his legacy not to continue his work.”
Starting this year, organizers will incorporate a segment that and honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the community.
The 2009 honoree will be longtime gospel radio personality and community activist Burnetta Sloss-Tanner, who will receive the Trailblazer Award.
“Her contributions to the community here in the city and even across this country have been phenomenal,” West said.
Turner was a leading figure in the gospel music industry for over a half a century.
He began singing in church at an early age, and formed Robert Turner & The Silver Heart Singers in 1960 after receiving inspiration from a powerful performance by the Clara Ward Singers.
The Silver Heart Singers performed for millions of people nationwide, from small churches, to large concert halls and festivals. The group toured the country twice a year, and performed for numerous congregations and community organizations in Indianapolis.
They earned nation acclaim for classics such as “There Is a God,” “I Choose Jesus” (1965), “A Change in My Life” (1979), “Old Time Religion “ (1988) and their live favorite, 1977’s “Hold Out (A Little Longer).”
In 2003 the group was honored with a special concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington during an event organized by Traditional Arts Indiana and the Indiana Arts Commission.
Turner was also a popular disc jockey on WTLC-AM’s Morning Inspiration and Praise program during the 1990s, and was known for his dedication to helping families as an administrator at the Center Township Trustees Office.
Turner died in 2005 at age 61 from diabetes related complications. The Silver Heart Singers, which was much like his extended family, have continued to sing in his memory.
“We’ve been through the fire and Robert’s gone, but we’ve been hanging in there,” said Tony Carpenter, pianist and longtime member of the Silver Hearts. “The mission is still the same and we will continue to take Robert’s vision of a life-changing music ministry to the depths of this world.”
For more information about the The Robert Turner Christmas Musical, call (317) 717-6869 or (317) 413-3113.