by Len Lear
Bill Bloom is a musical minister who sees no conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs and his impressive musical accomplishments, both spiritual and secular. These include being the Minister of Music at the United Christian Church in Levittown, Bucks County, but also writing and producing, with co-writer Frankie Smith, the platinum-selling hip-hop recording, “Double Dutch Bus.”
When asked about this seeming contradiction last week, Bloom said, “Interestingly, in my studies I learned that West Africans don’t make a distinction between sacred and secular. Everything is considered sacred. Since I see everything and everyone as having value I like to think of everything as sacred. Likewise, I see no conflict in a church person doing music of different genres. It all comes from the same source or emanation.
“I also don’t identify as a church person or a Christian, for that matter. Christianity was my formative religion, but I see it as too limiting a description of who I am. However, I have no problem calling myself a follower of Jesus or anyone, for that matter, who is grounded, in faith and action, in the golden rule. Love others the way we want to be loved.”
Bloom, a youthful 66 and an Ambler resident (for the last four years) who is profiled in the book, “Legendary Locals of Ambler,” by Frank Quattrone, released last month by Arcadia Publishing of Glenside, regards himself as a peacemaker. Some years ago he wrote a song inspired by a beautiful park near Doylestown called Peace Valley.
“In my mind,” he said last week, “if you are a person of peace, everywhere you go is Peace Valley. I’d like to continue trying to bring people together, excluding no one, so that we can celebrate each other and share our gifts of diversity and the gifts of the universe which, collectively, belong to all of us. I suggest that we eliminate borders. The whole world belongs to everyone.
“I admire Benjamin Franklin, who appears to have lived a well rounded life of both service to others and debauchery for himself. He exhibited love for himself and others. I see that as the essential interchange of life, the ultimate drama, extending and embracing love of self and others.”
Bloom attended Overbrook High School and has a Bachelor of Music degree from Temple University’s Boyer College of Music . He also attended the School of Sacred Ministries, an interfaith seminary, in Doylestown. “ As a child I was always drawn to the piano, playing or banging on it at every opportunity,” he said.
“ In elementary school I sang a lot and was frequently involved with musical activities, including plays and special holiday programs. I wouldn’t say that I particularly wanted to be a musician as a child, but I did love the idea of playing the piano with others gathered around singing. My interest in music piqued when I joined the All-Phila. Jr. High School Choir in 7th grade and was exposed to so many talented kids. I wanted to be like them.”
Bill’s mom has a beautiful voice and sang frequently at home. His two sisters and three brothers all enjoy singing. His youngest brother, Warren, is a drummer. He has three daughters who sing and are musically talented, particularly his youngest daughter, Gina, who fronts two bands in Chicago, The Congregation and The Need and the Night.
Bill has been a member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale for about 10 years. ( It is a choir for both men and boys.) “I missed an opportunity to sing in a boys choir as a kid. My voice changed before PBCC was established. ”
Bill had worked for Visteon, an automotive electronics company, and had been planning an early retirement when he responded to an ad seeking men to sing in the chorale. He knew he was going to have some more discretionary time, so he auditioned for the group. He was also looking for an opportunity to sing some “good” music.
The musical minister worked for Phila. International Records in the late ‘70s as a writer and a producer with artists such as Jean Carn, Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Pedicin Jr., The Futures, Archie Bell, Melba Moore and others. His chart-topping recording, “Double Dutch Bus,” together with Frankie Smith, helped usher in the hip-hop music era.
Bloom was ordained an interfaith minister in 2002 through the School of Sacred Ministries (SOSM) in Bucks County. SOSM is an interfaith seminary that is associated with Pebble Hill Interfaith Community in Doylestown. “Initially I was drawn to the study of comparative religion,” he said.
“I wanted to learn about other religions. In college, I was often a paid singer in various churches and denominations and, because of my roommates, I had a familiarity with Judaism as well … It felt like everything I’d done before that led me there with the purpose of being able to serve others wherever I was needed or where the universe led me.
“My first piano lessons were the result of me finding teachers advertised in the classified section of the newspaper when I was in elementary school. I made appointments and then later told my mom I needed money to pay for the lessons. My mom obliged, despite the fact that I didn’t even have a piano. I had a small chord organ that I practiced on for a year, and then my mom bought me a old upright piano.”
Bloom later studied piano at the old Philadelphia Musical Academy and then at Temple, where he majored in Music Education with a concentration in Voice. He studied other instruments, but piano and voice are his primary instruments.
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