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Gospel Music in Harlem and NYC

Updated: November 23, 2023

This post describes how you could hear gospel music in New York, whether in Harlem, in Brooklyn, or anywhere else.

And if you are looking for an authentic experience, then you are going to need to prepare yourself.

In the video below, Derrick, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot NYC, warns you about how long a gospel service can be and how limited space is.

We compiled this list from first-hand experience. We lead daily walking tours of Harlem, led by local guides like Derrick.

We also offer a special tour with Lady Altovise - Harlem Renaissance and Gospel Music Experience.  

Lady Altovise is a local Harlem tour guide with us (Free Tours by Foot), and she helped us put together this post.

We also asked the roughly 200k members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook group if they could recommend a gospel service in NYC.

Our group is made up of locals (including our tour guides), veteran travelers to NYC, and newbies.

You don't need to join the group to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

Be sure to check out the group once you've finished with this post.

If after reading this, it seems too daunting, you might consider an organized Harlem gospel tour or Lady Altovise's Harlem Renaissance and Gospel Music Experience.  


GOSPEL SERVICE ETIQUETTE

Helpful tips on experiencing gospel music without an organized tour.


Find out service schedules ahead of time. 

Churches have services at different times, and not all services include a choir. Look at a church’s website or call ahead to see if they have a Gospel Mass.


Know your etiquette. 

When you go to hear gospel music in a church, you'll be stepping into houses of worship.

The use of cell phones, cameras, and video recorders is strictly prohibited (unless you have been given special permission to take photos).

Many church websites have visitor pages and may have important guidelines to follow.

For example, showing up in jeans and flip-flops is inappropriate.

Be sure to look at websites in advance or call, if you are unsure what proper etiquette is.


Gospel concerts are part of religious services, not simply a musical show.

A gospel performance at a church is part of their services.

The forces driving the sermons and the congregations listening to them are the same forces that drive the human spirit. 


Give yourself enough time.

Be prepared to experience the whole service, which could take 2 hours or more.

Services with a choir singing will also include a sermon, and not only are the sermons quite moving but it can also be considered rude to leave in the middle.

So, give yourself enough time to enjoy the entire service.


Consider making at least a small donation to the church.

Congregations are happy to have visitors and share their celebrations, but no church nor choir can get by without the support of its members and guests.

Religious organizations are non-profits that provide many valuable services to their communities.

A small contribution to their donation basket is appreciated.


Avoid the tourist crowds.  

Consider visiting a smaller congregation to avoid long lines. The experience will be just as special and less crowded.

Or, consider taking a guided tour or our informal gospel experience.


OUR TOP 3 PICKS

Lady Altovise's Harlem Renaissance and Gospel Experience.

Every Wednesday, Lady Altovise, a tour guide with Free Tours by Foot, presents her gospel performance.

There's no dress code and this is not a church service. Learn more here.


Times Square Church - 1657 Broadway

The Times Square Church is located in a renovated Broadway Theater in the heart of Midtown Manhattan and is an interdenominational church with members from over 100 nationalities.  

Where to Hear Gospel in New York City

Their Adult Praise Choir (video above) performs 4 times per week.

They minister weekly during the Sunday 10 am and 3 pm services and Tuesday 7 pm prayer service. 

Check their schedule to confirm the times and get further details.


Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

You don't have to go to Harlem to hear excellent gospel music! The Brooklyn Tabernacle’s choir is more than 40 years old but better than ever.

In 2013 they were invited to sing to all of America at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. which was televised.

The Tabernacle is located in easily reachable Downtown Brooklyn at 17 Smith Street between Livingston and Fulton Streets - (718) 290-2000.

Sunday services are at 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm. Check to see first which services will have gospel shows before you head out to the Tabernacle.

Extra Bonus: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir is located in Brooklyn Heights


OTHER PLACES TO HEAR GOSPEL MUSIC IN NEW YORK CITY

If you prefer to visit a Harlem Gospel Choir, try to steer clear of the larger congregations, some of which are so popular with tourists, that visitors are sometimes turned away for lack of space in the pews. 

Early morning services tend to be slightly less crowded.

Still, they are popular for a reason—the sermons, choir, and services are magnificent.

Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem

abyssinian baptist church Harlem 2

Some of the Harlem churches are quite big: A few of them are:

Abyssinian Baptist Church 

  • 420 W 145th Street in Harlem between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenues (212) 234-6767. Sunday worship service is at 10:00 am.  
  • The congregation welcomes those who would like to worship with them. They discourage visitors who are only looking for a gospel performance.

Greater Refuge Temple

  • 2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. at 124th Street in Harlem (212) 866-1700.  
  • Sunday services are at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Mount Neboh Baptist Church

  • 1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 114th West 115 Streets in Harlem. (212) 866-7880.  
  • Sunday service is at 9:30 am (during the summer).

Canaan Baptist Church

  • 132 W. 116th Street between Lenox & 7th Avenues in Harlem. (212) 866-0301. 
  • Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am. Sunday service at 10:00 am (during the summer).

First Corinthian Baptist Church

  • 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 115th and West 116th Streets (212) 864-5976.
  • Sunday services are at 8:00 am and 10:45 am.

Bethel Gospel Assembly

  • 2-26 East 120th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues, (212) 860-1510.  
  • Sunday Services at 10:15 am. 
  • *Please be advised to double-check times yourself.

GOSPEL TOURS

There are plenty of organized tours that will take you on a Sunday gospel tour.

Below we list some of the best. Before purchasing a tour, note that gospel tours are often included in tourist discount passes. 

For example, both the New York Pass and Explorer Pass include two free gospel experiences (a Sunday morning gospel walk and a Wednesday evening walk).  

To learn more about these money-saving passes, read our post on New York Passes to see if a pass may be right for you.


Harlem Spirituals

This highly regarded tour operator offers several gospel-themed bus tours, including jazz and brunch tours.

All gospel-themed tours operate on Wednesdays and Sundays. They offer a Sunday Gospel and Soul Food bus tour.

The video is of the Gospel and Soul Food Tour

Wednesday Gospel Bus + Walking Tour

This tour lasts 4 hours, includes a 1-hour gospel church service, and ends at a famous soul food restaurant (food not included).  

They do offer a tour that includes lunch and lasts for an additional hour.

  • It starts at 9 am at 690 Eighth Avenue bet. 43rd and 44th Sts. Return to the Times Square area.
  • Available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese.
  • $65/Adult and $49/Child (age 3-11).
  • You can get $5 off if you have the New York Pass.

Inside Out Tours

Harlem isn't the only place in NYC to experience gospel music. Every Sunday Inside Out Tours offers a combination walking and subway tour. It's free with the New York Pass.

Sunday Morning Brooklyn Gospel Walking Tour 

  • Departs at 9 am from 79 Broadway at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in front of Trinity Church 
  • 2-hour walking tour and 2-hour gospel church service
  • $45/person
  • You will need a MetroCard for two rides.

Harlem One Stop

This arts and cultural initiative also offers gospel-themed walking tours of Harlem. They offer a 10:30 am walking tour on Sundays.

The cost is $25 per person. Note that this tour is free for holders of a New York Pass.

To learn more about these money-saving passes, read our post on New York Tourist Passes to see if purchasing a pass may be right for you.


OPTIONS WITH FREE TOURS BY FOOT

We offer exceptional gospel tour experiences led by Lady Altovise.

Unlike the church services listed below, there is no dress code for this tour and performance, and there is no waiting in line.

Cost: THIS TOUR IS CURRENTLY NOT RUNNING. Book this tour.

Note: This tour operates on Wednesdays at noon and pairs with our 2-hour walking tour of Harlem.

To learn more about Harlem and visit many of the neighborhood's attractions, join us for our free Harlem Walking Tour. Be sure to reserve a spot now!  

We can show you where some of the churches we list below are located on our free New York tours.


Other Gospel Shows in NYC:

From time to time, gospel performances take place at venues around NYC like the Apollo TheaterCarnegie HallRadio City Music Hall, and Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.

Visit each venue's website to see the music listings for any current performances are on. Note that such performances are rare though and you must purchase a ticket.

You are best off choosing one of the options above to hear live gospel.


TIP: After you attend a gospel concert, you may feel hungry after hearing such a rousing performance!

Join the locals at a local restaurant for soul food and enjoy such dishes as fried chicken, beef ribs, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, cornbread, and pecan pie for dessert!

Find out more about soul food and where to find some of the best in Harlem here.


RELATED POSTS:

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: November 23rd, 2023
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