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Avalon

Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-04-06

Avalon is an American contemporary Christian vocal quartet who has earned multiple RIAA-certified gold records, sold four million albums, and released 22 number one Christian hits.

In March of 1999, the members of the Christian vocal group Avalon had every reason to be frazzled. Their third album, In a Different Light, was released the day before the Dove Awards Christian music's equivalent to the Grammys for which they'd been nominated in six categories; the night before the awards, they taped their first TV special; and one member of the four-person group got married that month. In Christian legend, after long searching for the Holy Grail, King Arthur, at the end of his life, sailed off to a mythical island paradise of Avalon, or Heaven. It may not have been Heaven, but after over 200 performances in 1998 and recording In a Different Light, the band needed the break the honeymoon afforded them.

Avalon came together in Nashville in 1995 at the hand of Christian record label Sparrow Records' producer Norman Sinclair. Looking for people who were interested in Christian ministry, as well as people who wanted to work in a group, he found vocalists Nikki Hassman, Jody McBrayer, Michael Passons and Janna Potter to form Avalon. Shortly after coming together, and still a year before their first release, the group was a last-minute addition to the successful Young Messiah Farewell tour in 1995. The addition was so last-minute that it was too late for their names to be added to the programs, which had already been printed. Although unknown, the group still garnered good responses from audience and other artists. Their debut album, Avalon, was released on Sparrow in 1996. The album produced four number one Christian radio singles, including "Give it Up," "This Love," and "Picture Perfect World."

The group's second release, A Maze of Grace, in 1997, was a strong follow up to its debut. The single "Testify to Love" was the longest-running number one Christian single of the 1990s. Its success only grew when country star Wynonna selected it to sing on the "Touched by an Angel" soundtrack. One episode of the popular television show was written around the song. In 1998, the song was chosen the number one Song of the Year by Christian Research Report.
After being offered a solo deal with Sony in the spring of 1998, Nikki Hassman amicably left the group. "It wasn't an easy time for Avalon or for Nikki," Janna Potter told Billboard, "but she felt going into another area of music was where God was calling her . how do you fault somebody for doing what they feel God has called them to do?" Finding Hassman's replacement was no easy feat.

After listening to 100 audition tapes, Avalon still had found no one. It was on the recommendation of friends and members of their band that Avalon found Cherie Paliotta who had no audition tape to fill the gap in the group. After an informal session around the piano with Paliotta and an agreement between them to pray about the issue Avalon knew they'd found their girl. "When it fits, it fits," Janna Potter told The Tennessean. Said Paliotta about the change, in the Avalon biography: "It was a big change for me when I came into Avalon, there were days when I didn't think I could get up there and remember one more lyric. But God came through for me in those moments and gave me the courage to anchor on to Him and move forward. And I think that was just the same for the others during the transition."

After pairing Avalon with producer Charlie Peacock for their first two, Sparrow hired Christian super-producer Brown Bannister for its third release. Bannister put the group through its paces, pushing the vocalists to keep recording the same song again and again, even when they thought it was as good as it could get. "Guys, that's great," Cherie Paliotta jokingly imitated Bannister for The Tennessean. "Let's try on more take, take 1,175." The band knew the hard work was worth it, and their proof was that they thought was a more R&B-style Avalon pop. "[Bannister] loves texture and harmony," Michael Passons told New Christian Music Spotlight in 1999, "and putting those together working in ways to make it truly pop." They also were aware of their producer's history. "I kept thinking, I'm singing for the guy who made Amy Grant famous," Cherie Paliotta told Billboard in 1999.

A major break for the group who'd been on CNN Headline News twice, in addition to appearing on more than a dozen morning and syndicated Christian TV programs was their first TV special, "Avalon Live at the Factory," taped at an old mattress factory the day before the Dove Awards. The next day, they walked away with three 1999 Dove Awards, including one for Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year for "Testify to Love." Amid all the chaos, Jody McBrayer got married.

Ultimately, Avalon wouldn't have minded a cross over intomainstream pop. There is a record of Christian artists making themove and, though their message is Christian, their sound is purepop. In the 1990s, acts like Kirk Franklin, dc Talk, Bob Carlisleand Jars of Clay each made their marks in the Christian market,but then moved on to the next, more mainstream, level. Their"bubble-gum tendencies" have caused at least one critic to likenthem to nineties pop heartthrobs Backstreet Boys, wrote TheTennessean in 1999, and their 50/50 coed split have garnered themcomparisons to '70s Swedish pop stars Abba. Michael Passons toldNew Christian Music Spotlight in 1999 that the band wasn't out toget a mainstream hit, "But if for some reason pop wanted to playone of our songs I'd be all for it. Because it would be justmore people that would hear the song.... I think it's atremendous ministry opportunity. I'd be lying if I said it wasn'ta career opportunity as well." Cherie Paliotta had a biggervision: "I really believe in my heart that we're not only goingto minister to the Christian market," she told The Tennessean. "Itruly believe that in my heart, or else I wouldn't be here."

During the summer of 2007, Jody McBrayer decided to depart the group due to a heart condition in an effort to avoid getting a Heart attack. But, before he left, he found time to record one last album with Avalon. On February 26, 2008, Avalon released their ninth album, Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics. A headlining tour, titled "The We Will Stand Tour", with Michael English, the Daniel Doss Band and new Fervent Records girl group Cadia followed in spring 2008 to promote the classics album. The first single released from Another Time, Another Place was their cover of the Twila Paris song "God Is In Control".

The second single, released on November 5, 2007, was a remake of the Sandi Patty/Wayne Watson song "Another Time, Another Place", featuring a Jody/Janna duet. On November 13, 2007, Avalon released Another Time, Another Place EP a digital EP titled featuring three songs from the album: singles "God is in Control," "Another Time, Another Place" and a cover of the Amy Grant song "Thy Word". Current Avalon member Jeremi Richardson joined the group in late 2007 to replace Jody McBrayer. Jeremi, Melissa, and Janna had attended the same college, Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.

On May 15, 2009, Melissa Greene announced her resignation from Avalon on her personal website upon accepting a position as Pastor of Music and Arts at Gracepointe Church in Nashville. Melissa will continue her solo career as well. On May 21, 2009, Avalon announced that Richardson's wife Amy would fill Greene's spot as the newest member of Avalon. Janna went on maternity leave from Avalon February 9, 2010 after giving birth to her daughter Eleanor Hovland. Shortly after the release of the recent hits record, Avalon announced they would be returning to the studio to record a brand-new, all original album (their first since Stand in 2006) on E1 Music (formerly Koch Records), thus ending Avalon's long-time stint on the Sparrow Records (EMI Christian Music Group) label.

Avalon began recording vocals for the new album with Amy Richardson as its new member on May 19, 2009. It was announced in June 2009 that the album would be titled Reborn. The first single "Arise" was released to Christian radio in August 2009; on December 9, it officially became Avalon's 22nd career No. 1 radio hit, topping Billboard's Soft AC/Inspirational chart. This came just weeks after Avalon wrapped up their co-headlining tour with fellow Christian recording group Selah in the fall of 2009, which sold out many venues. Janna stated on Twitter that Avalon hopes to release a new album in 2011.

Current members:
-Janna Long (1995–present)
-Greg Long (2003–present)
-Jeremi Richardson (2007–present)
-Amy Richardson (2009–present)

Discography:
-Avalon (1996)
-A Maze of Grace (1997)
-In a Different Light (1999)
-Joy: A Christmas Collection (2000)
-Oxygen (2001)
-O2: Avalon Remixed (2002)
-Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon (2003)
-The Creed (2004)
-Stand (2006)
-Faith: A Hymns Collection (2006)
-Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics (2008)
-Avalon: The Greatest Hits (2009)
-Reborn (2009)


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