Maurice Culpepper directed gospel choirs across metro Atlanta.
By Michelle E. Shaw
Gospel artists, past, present and future, who’ve spent any time in Atlanta know the name Maurice Culpepper.
In fact, the word was that doors would open, and opportunities would materialize, much faster if you sought the advice of Culpepper.
“Anybody that knows gospel music in Atlanta knows you have to go through Maurice Culpepper to get anywhere,” said Darius Paulk of Atlanta, a singer and songwriter. “And he had influence with people, he had the respect of everybody, and he would give you opportunities that might be hard to come by otherwise.”
A Grammy nominee, and a friend to many of gospel music’s biggest names, Culpepper did not lose himself in fame, nor was he power hungry, said his wife, Tina Trice-Culpepper.
“He was a very humble man,” she said. “And his level of faithfulness was unmatched. He was faithful to God, until death.”
Culpepper died Dec. 2, the day after he and his wife celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary, from complications of cancer. He was 60. A memorial musical was held Friday and the funeral was Saturday, both at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta. Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
A native of Atlanta, Culpepper’s love of music started when he was a young boy; his mother played piano at Zion Hill Baptist Church, where his grandfather was pastor. A 1970 graduate of the former Harper High School, he went on to Georgia State University, where he sang in the chorus. He never learned to play the piano, but he knew chords and could re-create music he heard in unique ways, his wife said.
“If the person playing the piano played something wrong, or differently than he wanted to hear it, he could reposition their hands on the keys, to get the sound he wanted,” she said. “He knew sound.”
Culpepper also knew church music. During his career, he worked with several churches and choirs, most notably the Showers of Blessings Choir at Cathedral of Faith Church of God in Christ, where he was the founder and director for 22 years. He was also the minister of music at New Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church for 15 years.
“He didn’t take for granted the musical gift God gave him,” his wife said, “and he did not do it for profit. He worked for BellSouth for more than 30 years, and that was his job. Music was his God-given gift and his passion.”
In 2002, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked gospel music experts to identify some of Atlanta’s most important gospel players, and Culpepper’s name was in the top five.
In an interview Monday, gospel recording artist B. Chase Williams said Culpepper’s status in the music community was elevated by his character, and supported by his talent.
“Music was more than singing to him,” Williams said. “Being in a Maurice Culpepper choir was about things beyond music; it was integrity, honesty and the things that make you a better person, not just a better musician.”
In addition to his wife, Culpepper is survived by two sisters, Nanniene Culpepper and Victoria Davis, both of Atlanta.
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