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January 6, 2010

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Blind Boys in eye-opening show

THE Blind Boys of Alabama, blending inspirational gospel and popular music, stole the show in a New Year's Day concert at the Shanghai Grand Theater. On the day before they sang with children at the Shanghai School for the Blind.

The American group, founded in 1939 and winner of numerous Grammy awards, made their debut in China at the concert, "The Greatest Love under Blue Sky - Night of Amway."

The Blind Boys has over 70 years' history, since it began in the US state of Alabama. The founders Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter are still active. New members include lead guitarist Joey Williams, drummer Eric (Ricky) McKinnie, vocal Bobby Butler and bass Tracy Pierce.

The band released its latest album "Duets" in October. It completed its sixth annual Christmas tour in Ontario (Canada) before their China tour.

Critics praise the Blind Boys, and Time Out New York has called their show "a rare, soul-stirring affair."

The Birmingham (Alabama) Times wrote, "It's easy to see why the group has endured and thrived for decades. Authenticity, conviction and a sense of humor have served them well over the long haul."

The Washington Post called their performance at the Kennedy Center "an evening of upbeat, optimistic and quintessentially American music, high-energy performances that had the audience on its feet to the very end."

Some old-time gospel music circles are very conservative and dismiss popular music as a worldly temptation of the devil. The Blind Boys, by contrast, shun worldliness yet embrace the world, bringing spiritual music to secular audiences to spread their message.

They feel the song and put their own stamp on it withenthusiasm, expertise andsoulful commitment.

When the group first started singing in the southern state of Alabama in 1939, few people would have thought the Blind Boys would perform beyond a small circuit of southern, black community churches.

By the 1980s, however, the group's breakthrough appearance in an Obie award-winning musical - "The Gospel at Colonus" starring Morgan Freeman -led to a diverse following far beyond the Blind Boys' original core of fans.

Since then the group has released or reissued nearly 30 albums, five of whichhave won Grammy awards: "Down In New Orleans," "Go Tell It on the Mountain," "Higher Ground," "Spirit of the Century" and "There Will Be A Light" (a collaboration with Ben Harper).

In 2009 the US Recording Academy honored the Blind Boys with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In Shanghai the Blind Boys visited visually impaired children one day before the New Year's Day Concert, cheering kids in the Shanghai Schoolfor the Blind.

The children performed "Song of Blind Children" and "You and Me" (theme of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008). The children and the Blind Boys together sang "Jasmine Flower."

"The children were so amazing. Their voice and songs surprised us," the group said in a statement. "We are happy to be here and make our debut in China in such a meaningful show. We wish you all a happy time."

Amway is a direct-sales company and manufacturer that uses multi-level marketing to sell a variety of products, primarily in the health, beauty and home care markets. Amway grew quickly in China from its market launch in 1995.

Amway China has contributed to Chinese charities for many years. It has collaborated with the Shanghai Charity Foundation since 2001, sponsored more than 20 projects and donated more than 16 million yuan (US$2.3 million) to the foundation.

Since 2004 Amway China has supported New Year's concerts in several cities.

"The perfect joining of high-level classic art and charity has become a commonweal brand of Amway," says Huang Shengwen, vice director of Amway China. "It's love that makes all the people same. It's art that makes all the people feel the power of love."


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