|Performer relies on gospel music and God’s promises|
A UMNS photo courtesy of Greta Oglesby.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 8, 2009
In Proverbs, it says, “God will make room for your gifts.” Greta Oglesby says: Count on it.
Oglesby’s joy of singing began as one of five siblings in the choir of her father’s church. “We loved it. We got to travel with our dad and he would always call on us to sing a couple of songs.”
Today she is a professional actor and singer who has won acclaim across the country. She is starring in “Caroline, or Change” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where her performance has been called “ravishing and powerful.”
What has strengthened her on her journey has been the sacred songs she learned as a child.
“Gospel music has gotten me through some low points,” Oglesby said. “R&B and jazz just can’t touch it. An old hymn can lift me out of some low places.”
And there have been many trials.
A star is born
She was working as an accountant in 1993 when her life took a different turn. She saw an ad for auditions at a local theater. The ad said they were looking for six African-American women who could sing gospel songs.
“I was black and I could sing gospel songs,” she said. She thought it would be a chance to make some extra money and might make a nice hobby. She almost talked herself out of the audition when all the others trying out for the part had professional photos and resumes and all seemed to know each other.
Oglesby was asked to sing a song. She picked “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
“I did great with the song.” She got the part.
Singing through sorrow
Oglesby discovered she truly loved acting and singing. She went on to perform in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Royale Theatre in New York City, Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Huntington Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.
In the midst of her success, tragedy struck when her mother died in 2000.
“My mom was my best friend. We were breakfast buddies, my mom would call me every Saturday morning and say, ‘Girl, what are you doing? Want to go get some breakfast?’”
When nothing else could ease the grief, she found comfort in an old friend.
“What got me through the year after her death was singing ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’”
In addition to performing on stage, Oglesby is also a “preacher’s wife.” Her husband, the Rev. Dennis Oglesby Jr., is the pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.
“My life has come full circle, I never thought I would marry a minister,” she said, laughing. “I tell my friends I married my father.”
She describes the church members at Park Avenue as some of her biggest fans. “They come to see me in shows and they collect newspaper clippings for me.” She sings on the praise team and is involved in the United Methodist Women’s group.
“I love the Lord. God orders my steps,” she said.
And for those times when she is so low she can’t even find the words to pray, a song will start in “my secret place.”
“Singing an old hymn just speaks to whatever I am going through.”
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Five Fun Questions
Q: What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you about your singing?
A: Wow. I really can’t think of any one thing someone has said. I have been told many times that I am a good singer.
Q: What is your favorite church song?
A: “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Q: Do you sing in the shower?
A: All the time! I have to vocalize every day because I am in a production right now that is all singing.
Q: Who would you compare yourself to as a singer?
A: I don’t compare myself to anyone but I love CeCe Winans.
Q: What song would you choose at a karaoke party?
A: “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner.
Greta Oglesby sings “The Prodigal Son”
Greta Oglesby: From a heart place
‘Singing angels’ share gifts with church
What about United Methodists who can’t sing?
Music director feels God’s presence in every note
Pastor upholds singing legacy that began in 19th-century burlesque halls
Joy of music is constant in choir director’s life
Deaf singer becomes ‘word made flesh’
Singers answer five fun questions
Susan Boyle’s voice lifts her beyond stereotype
Analysis: Singer teaches us how to love our neighbor