When you look at Queen Esther Marrow's life you understand how gospel superstars are made. Her mother named her with pride and dignity and Queen Esther has shown that she is worthy of her majestic title.
This celebrated "First Lady of Gospel Music" began her career at the young age of 22 when her incredible talent and vocal gift were discovered by the great Duke Ellington. He signed Queen for his "Sacred Concert" world tour, in which she was featured. Queen Esther and Duke Ellington formed a long life friendship during the next four years while touring together.
Queen's career is surrounded by famous musical and political leaders who have shaped her mind and spirit. Following her first professional engagements with Ellington, she was invited to tour throughout America with Harry Belafonte. Queen has since performed with such musical greats as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Theloneus Monk, Chick Corea and Bob Dylan.
In 1965, Queen actively joined the American civil rights movement when she performed in Dr. Martin Luther King's "World Crusade." There she met her lifetime idol Mahalia Jackson, with whom she would later share the stage. Other political activists on the crusade were Jesse Jackson, Sidney Poitier and Dr. Ralf Abernathy.
After the turbulent yet successful 60s, Queen turned her talents to musical theater, jazz, television and film. She performed on Broadway in "The Wiz," "Comin' Uptown" and "It's So Nice To Be Civilized," and she starred in the national tour of "Sing Mahalia Sing," directed by George Faison. Queen also appeared in the film "The Last Dragon," produced by Berry Gordy of Motown fame. Her television appearances have ranged from the serious to the comic. They include "Duke Ellington: The Music Lives On" and as Oscar the Grouch's mother in "Sesame Street" on PBS. In 1990, a dream of Queen's came true when "Truly Blessed," a musical about Mahalia Jackson which she wrote, produced, and starred in, became a reality in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and on Broadway in New York. The musical was awarded three Helen Hayes nominations.
With all of her monumental successes ranging from movies to television to stage, Queen Esther never forgot the calling of her first and truest love…gospel music. She wanted to share the joy of her music with the rest of the world, so in 1992, Queen Esther Marrow founded The Harlem Gospel Singers. The group has successfully toured Europe with Queen over the last eighteen years, performing for more than 2 million people in theaters and opera houses in cities which include Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, London and Paris. The Harlem Gospel Singers, together with Queen Esther, have established themselves as one of Europe's top-selling shows. Critics have been amazed to see the usually conservative European audiences stand, jump, stomp and cheer in a catharsis of emotion. The shows they perform encompass many different styles of music, including jazz, blues, rock & roll, and pop, all with a gospel base.
Queen Esther has performed for former Presidents Reagan and Bush, President Clinton and the British Royal Family. Recently, her most prestigious honor was performing for Pope John Paul II, who asked for Queen and The Harlem Gospel Singers to perform for him three times over the last two years. The last time Queen performed at a large open air event honoring Pope John Paul II in Bologna and during a performance at the Vatican for the Pope, witnesses say they saw him tapping his foot to the music in delight. With their popularity at an all-time high, Queen Esther Marrow featuring the HGS made history on July 7, 1998 as the only gospel group ever to perform the Grand Evenement du Maurier (grand event) at the Montreal Jazz Festival, drawing over 100,000 music-lovers. Melding a soulful mix of traditional gospel music and contemporary rhythms and beats, with the classical sounds of blues and jazz, Queen Esther Marrow featuring the Harlem Gospel Singers create a spectacular show that far surpasses a concert to become a major theatrical event.
Now Queen Esther is turning her attention back to the United States, bringing with her today's most sensational, high-energy gospel musical spectacular. With her unique rhythm and style, Queen Esther, together with America's finest soulful voices, the Harlem Gospel Singers, inspires and propels the soul and sound of gospel music into the next country. "And a legend will make a joyful noise unto the Lord."