Ashmont Hill, a Christian music quartet, can be seen at the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston’s Tribute to Bishop at the John Hancock Hall and Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 11. (Photo courtesy of Ashmont Hill)
In 2008, a Christian music quartet known as Ashmont Hill released their first self-titled album and it spent a week at #16 on Billboard’s Christian albums 12 weeks at #10 on Billboard’s gospel albums chart.
The group’s second album, “Your Masterpiece,” debuted in June 2010 and the group was again recognized on both charts, spending the second week of June at #5 on the gospel charts and now holding the spot at #19 on the Christian music charts.
Though topping the charts is certainly not the aim of group members Phil Thompson, April Thompson, Deborah Bullock and her husband Wilbur Bullock — all of whom are proud members of the beloved Thompson family of Mattapan’s Jubilee Christian Church — it was getting on the charts that proved that their music was being heard.
With musical influences ranging from Amy Grant to Kirk Franklin, Ashmont Hill has become the signature group and sound of the Boston-based Axiom Records, an in-house recording label owned by Jubilee Christian Church. While preparing for their upcoming performance where they will open for headliner and R&B vocalist Regina Belle, siblings April and Phil Thompson spoke to the Banner about their influences and plans for the coming year.
What is the significance of Ashmont Hill to the group?
April: It’s a neighborhood that we grew up in. We grew up on Rosalind Street in that area and since we’re a family group we wanted to come up with a name that would link us all together.
How important was Christian music to the household that you grew up in?
April: That was the only music that we were allowed to listen to. We weren’t allowed to listen to any other types of music, so we grew up loving so many different gospel artists, like Commissioned, The Winans, BeBe and CeCe Winans, just to name a few. Our parents let us know what we were supposed to listen to and that was what we listened to.
Is it the same today?
Phil: I listen to Coldplay and there are a couple of secular bands that I listen to that I really like, but my favorite music is gospel and Christian music because of the heart in it.
Your sound is definitely original and that you have a full band gives you major credibility. Who composes the music? Who writes the lyrics?
Phil: I compose and write the lyrics for most of the songs. April is a writer as well, but I’m the primary writer and composer.
Are you specially trained in music or a music form?
Phil: No. I was a physical education teacher for eight years and I was always into music. I didn’t know what the gifts were that I had until I began to focus on them.
April: Seven years ago, our oldest sister preached this message about returning to what your childhood dreams were. She challenged Phil to write a song and he wrote this song called “Your Right Hand” which became the last song on our first album. We were blown away by it. Phil is like the Stevie Wonder of gospel.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
April: Performing on TBN was a major highlight for us and they have called us back on the program again and so we have scheduled two more upcoming appearances with them. We sang at Crystal Cathedral, which films a program called “Hour of Power” and so we will be appear on that twice in 2011.
Can you talk about being a diverse group that knows no musical boundaries?
April: We think that it came out of the worship that we do at our church. Growing up, we listened to the Winans and Commission, but we also listened to white gospel artists because we were more concerned about the words of the music. We think our parents also contributed because they were listening to all types of Christian music. And now, with the influences of music made by Hill Song, the Australian church that puts out an album every year, we have been deliberate about making world-sound music.
If you had to categorize your music along the great span of religious music genres, where would you place it?
April: We don’t like to answer that question [laughing].
What does “Imperfect Hallelu” mean? And who wrote that song?
April: Phil wrote that song and it talks about how Hallelujah is a universal word. In any country, and in any language, the one word used to represent the highest praise is Hallelujah. Putting imperfect in front of it refers to our makeup as human beings. It is not possible for us to ever be perfect, but we are serving a perfect God and we want Him to receive our imperfect hallelu.
Can you talk about some of the life-changing youth services that Tribute to Bishop Gideon A. Thompson will be benefiting, and how he has affected these services in Boston?
April: The purpose of this concert is to raise funds to support the Black Ministerial Alliance’s (BMA) year-round, violence prevention, youth development, and out-of-school time programs that have been helping youth and families affected by the senseless violence that has taken place in the city of Boston over the past year. Some of these services include the Victory Generation and Teen Café. Also as president of the BMA for the past six years, our father has done a lot to support youth and these programs in particular and so the concert will help to raised funds and salute our dad.
Ashmont Hill can be seen and heard at Tribute to Bishop, hosted by the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston. The tribute will feature vocal powerhouse Regina Belle as headliner, Ashmont Hill, and Gospel Dream TV semifinalist, Erin Daneele. Performances will take place at 3 p.m. and at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010 at the John Hancock Hall and Auditorium.
For more information, contact the Black Ministerial Alliance at 617-445-2737 x10 or visit them online at www.bmaboston.net.