Dr. Marlena Smalls is the founder and director of the internationally known group The Hallelujah Singers. Smalls, a vocalist and historian began her singing career in Ohio and went to Central State University. A sacred music vocalist, Marlena also ventures into gospel, contemporary, jazz and blues.
Dr. Marlena Smalls was born in Ohio to South Carolina parents. In a family full of singers, Dr. Smalls didn’t consider herself especially talented. Then she took the stage in a talent showcase, and her voice – deeply rich and mature for her age – distinguished itself for its power and grace. She began singing in Ohio and went to Central State University before embarking on her singing career. Dr. Smalls’ talents have taken her around the globe and she has toured heavily in Europe, performed for the Queen of England, and held a concert in the Frankfurt Opera House in Germany.
But not even an Ohio upbringing and a well-worn passport could sever Dr. Smalls’ link to South Carolina. In 1985, she founded the Gullah Festival in Beaufort, which would celebrate the culture and preserve its many traditions, and by 1990, she had formed the Hallelujah Singers.
Dr. Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers recently performed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. Their CD Juba is now sold in the Smithsonian gift shop.
Now featured in Beaufort and Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: "Why Gullah?" with new customized group entertainment tour showcasing the African American culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands. Ask about special music for weddings or storytelling for all ages. Also available at your location: "Simply Marlena" solo performances.
Marlena Smalls founded The Hallelujah Singers in 1990 to preserve the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands. She is a sacred music vocalist, also singing gospel, contemporary, jazz and blues. Her programs for schools, reunion and meeting groups incorporate lecture, music and Gullah storytelling. Inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame in 2004, Marlena has performed for the Queen of England and many U. S. and international dignitaries. She has worked with film producer Joel Silver and Academy Award winners Tom Hanks, Demi Moore and Glenn Close. In addition to many productions for PBS, SCETV and GPTC, she is known to international audiences as Bubba's mom in the Academy Award winning motion picture "Forrest Gump".