'Guess Who Moved?'
Preacher Pap and the exciting Maryland State Choir released a gospel album in 1978 with the whimsically quizzical title, “If God Seems Far From You … Guess Who Moved?”
University of Maryland Eastern Shore alumni who collect memorabilia from and about their alma mater should avoid judging a record by its album cover, however.
Pap, whose real name is the Rev. Orlando T. Riley Jr., was born in Berlin, Md. in 1948 and as a young man was known on the Delmarva Peninsula for his moving music ministry.
In the late '70s, Bishop Willie G. Dukes sought Riley's opinion of a group of singers from Calvary Pentecostal Church in Bishopville, Md.
“I have a little country choir,” the bishop told Riley. “Do you think you can do anything with them?”
Riley recognized immediately the choir had big-time talent.
“What was so special about those young people,” he said, “is not only could they sing … but they were so anointed. Everywhere they went … people were blessed by their singing.”
Riley arranged with a small record company in Newark, N.J. to cut a stereo album of 10 songs, nine of which he wrote, that could be sold during a concert tour of mid-Atlantic states. (His stage name, unfortunately, is misspelled even though a photo of an airplane on the cover has it right.)
“We sold a lot of them,” he recalled. “We had to re-order a lot.”
Dukes presided over churches in three states -- Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Pap suggested calling the group the “Maryland State choir” so audiences would know where the singers were from.
The name, it turns out, had nothing to do with the institution of higher education in Princess Anne that from 1947 until 1970 was known as “Maryland State College.”
“It’s possible some of the (choir) members might have been students,” Riley said, “but I don’t know that. I just appreciated their talent.”
“Guess who moved?” was his debut album, the first of 11 in his discography. Since 1990, Riley has been a pastor at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, a congregation of 250 parishioners in Elizabeth, N.J.
He still tours under his “recording name.” Preacher Pap and The Gospel Invisibles performed at UMES' Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts in February 2009 as part of annual homecoming week festivities.
It was his first visit to campus.
-- BILL ROBINSON