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Seattle's 'First Lady of Gospel Music' remembered for her impact on and off stage

Patrinell Wright became a musical icon and her Total Experience Gospel Choir captivated audiences around the world for 45 years. #k5evening

SEATTLE — While many in the Pacific Northwest knew Pastor Patrinell "Pat" Wright for founding the Total Experience Gospel Choir, her voice and her talent knew no borders. 

"Seattle was her hub, but the world was her stage," explained Kent Stevenson, who played piano for Wright over the years. 

Pat Wright passed away at the age of 78 on Aug. 30, 2022. 

The Total Experience Gospel Choir would go on to perform in 28 countries and sing for U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, among many other accolades.

RELATED: It's the end of an era for Seattle's Total Experience Gospel Choir

"She was fun, but she was strict," shared her niece Sherri Charlston, who joined the choir when she was 15 years old. "She let you know if you were singing wrong!" 

Tanisha Brooks sang in the choir for 40 of its 45 years!

"She was a perfectionist to the heart," Brooks explained. "But it was all about love and all to prepare us for who we are today."

Singer Josephine Howell was part of another Patrinell Wright legacy.

The Black Nativity production became a holiday tradition in Seattle for well over a decade. Pat Wright served as its music director, working alongside director Jackie Moscou. 

"Black Nativity gave people opportunity, but more importantly it kept the Seattle and surrounding areas together. It was about the nativity of Jesus Christ, but everybody, all nationalities, all beliefs, everybody would come," Howell explained. "Pastor would call out all the religions, all the names even agnostic. She said even those that didn't believe, she would just call them out because she would celebrate everybody."  

Wright often sang in groups, but her voice could hold a room on its own.   

"Pat's voice was powerful," shared Terry Morgan, a local musician and producer. "Whether she was whispering or wailing."

"She would always say, 'Don't think of a song musically, think of the story you are telling,'" explained Howell. "That's why she sounded different."

From 1997-2007, Wright pastored the Oneness Christian Center, a church she co-founded in Seattle.

While Wright mostly sang gospel, she did have a cult hit in the secular space many years before.

She recorded the tune "Little Love Affair" in 1969 under the name Patrinell Staten; only to find out it had become a thing overseas.

In an interview with KING 5 in 2017, she explained how she found out.  

"I was absolutely floored when this lady came all the way from London, England to my church and said, 'Are you Patrinell Staten?' I said, 'I am.' She says, 'I danced to you every Friday and Saturday night.' I said, 'Where?' She says, 'In London!' I said, 'Really?' 

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In 2019, a documentary about Patrinell Wright debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival. "Patrinell: The Total Experience" tells the story  
of Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir against the backdrop of the Central District’s gentrification and the city’s racial history.

But Pat Wright's greatest accomplishments might be something you would never see on a stage. 

It was how she lived her life and the impact it left on those around her.   

"Singing was not just because she could sing well, it was a ministry," shared her niece Sherri. "That is the most important part of what I want people to know is that she loved the the Lord and she loved her family." 

"She loved me in a way a mother would love on a child and she expected a lot from me. So she would not let me slide under the radar or live under my potential. It was not accepted," Howell shared. "She would visit the sick and she would feed the hungry and she would use her own money to help others. She did what the word of God said. True religion."

While Seattle has lost a powerful voice in Pastor Patrinell Wright, her legacy of love will live on.  

A celebration of life open to the public is planned for January.

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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