RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)— For more than six decades, the “Legendary Ingramettes” have brought hand-clapping, foot-stomping, traditional gospel music to performance stages across Central Virginia.
The group prides itself on connecting with audiences through electric, “roof-raising” harmonies and “powerful vocals,” all driven by the voices of three women.
“Traditional gospel is music about your experience, and nobody can talk about your experience better than you can,” the head of the Ingramettes, Almeta Ingram said.”We connect with people because our experience has been some of theirs.”
The group is now based in Richmond, but their story begins in Florida, where the matriarch of the family, Maggie Ingram, lived for many years. By the age of 29, Maggie was in search of a way to keep her five children together through hardship.
Her way would be through music.
“While other kids would be outside playing, we would be sitting in a circle and rehearsing,” recalled Almeta. “She would be beating the stick, helping us with rhythm and teaching us about our voices.”
Eventually, Maggie and her children would become musically known as: “Sister Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes.”
In 1961, Maggie, who the family called Mama, moved from Florida to Richmond to continue their music legacy. But, aside from just singing, Maggie also led her family down a path of community service.
“We’ve been very active in social issues,” Almeta explained.
The group found purpose in giving back. In the 1970’s, under Maggie’s leadership, created a prison ministry, partnering with the Mount Gilead Baptist Church to institute programs like family day in Virginia prison camps.
“We had a bus and if there were inmates’ families who wanted to come while we were singing, we would provide transportation and feed them,” Almeta said. “The Department of Corrections started family days and turned around the way visitation used to be.”
Their work in the prison ministry has taken the “Legendary Ingramettes” to the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, Riverside Regional Jail, and beyond, where they not only ministered through song, but also through the preached word.
“All we wanted to do was to serve, and to bring joy into someone’s life,” Almeta said.
In 2015, the group said goodbye to its matriarch, Maggie, after she passed away at the age of 85. Almeta recalls it was her mother’s final wish for her family to continue her legacy through music and song.
And they did.
Now comprised of Almeta Ingram, Cheryl Marcia Yancey, and Carrie Ann Jackson, the group continues to bring the electric energy of a Sunday morning church service to performance stages big and small. From the Library of Congress to Richmond’s Folk Festival, the group says their mission is the same: to change lives and bring audiences closer to God.
“I would see people in the audience cry. Not because they were sad, but because something we said touched their spirit,” said Maroney-Yancey.
Jackson added, “Being apart of spreading the gospel means everything.”
The “Legendary Ingramettes'” traditional gospel music style has transcended not only generations but also languages and cultures.
And while they’ve been ministering by song for more than 60 years, they don’t believe their time is up anytime soon.
“I want people’s souls to be edified,” Almeta said. “I want people to have that relationship with God that cannot be separated.”