Gospel music icons The Legendary Ingramettes celebrate founder Maggie Ingram with the group's first album since her 2015 passing, Take a Look in the Book, out March 20.
The long-running, Richmond, Virginia-based group is now led by Maggie Ingram's daughter Almeta Ingram-Miller, whose thoughts on album cut "When Jesus Comes" and its live video point back to her mother's faith and resolve.
"This song goes way way back for us," Ingram-Miller says. "It's one of the first songs that Mama taught us. It goes all the way back to how the group came into being. My dad moved the family from a cotton plantation in Coffee County, Georgia to Miami since he had relatives there. My sister and I were born in Miami. Dad tried to make a go of it, but one day he just got up and went to work and didn't come back. Mama had to raise five kids on her own, that was one of the reasons we started singing. She said she prayed about it and God told her, 'What you have is more important than what you don't have. You have five kids." those were His words to her as she sat there in Miami with five children, no husband and no prospects for raising us, but everything would be alright when Jesus comes."
The Ingram children were taught a similar lesson through New Testament scriptures.
"Mama always repeated that and she told us that you will never be judged on what you don't do with what you don't have, but always on what you do with what you have," Ingram-Miller adds. "That's Biblical. That comes out of the scripture in Matthew 25, where the master leaves the three servants. One servant gets five talents, the other gets two talents, the other gets one. Whatever you get, you're expected to use the same amount of effort with the one gift that you have and to do the best that you can with what God has given you. What levels the playing field is Jesus. That's who leveled the playing field for her. Here's a domestic worker with no formal education; she dropped out of school to work in the fields. But she was given an honorary doctorate before she died. This woman with a third grade education! You are expected to give equal effort and if you do that, Jesus will level the playing field. Someone with five kids and no education can make a go of it, just like someone who graduated summa cum laude from college."
Virginia's state folklorist Jon Lohman produced Take a Look in the Book as part of the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities. Per a press release, the album "showcases Almeta's bold new vision and towering vocal abilities, drawing songs from new Appalachian sources like Ola Belle Reed and Bill Withers, and reworking family favorites, some of which date back to old spirituals."
The Ingramettes' story spans over 65 years. Per its Library of Congress bio, the group has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Virginia Heritage Award in 2009. Maggie Ingram was awarded a doctor of music degree from Virginia Triumphant College and Seminary in 2011. The Virginia Folklife Program's production of Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes: Live in Richmond received the Independent Music Awards fan's choice award for Gospel Album of the Year in 2012.