Eleanor A. Crews Wright
1926 - 1992
Eleanor Wright, prolific gospel music writer, singer, pianist, and arranger, is arguably one of the most influential persons to help gain acceptance for gospel music of the black experience in the Seventh-day Adventist church. She is credited with composing over 400 songs, publishing three songbooks, and recording several albums.
Eleanor was born in Dayton, Ohio, the twelfth of fourteen children and the last daughter born to Nora and William Crews. When she married Harold Wright at age eighteen, she became a member of the Wright Family Ensemble, a well-known musical group in the region.
Harold's brother Dale taught her to play guitar chords on the piano, and she then taught herself to go beyond that basic instruction. Although she had had no formal training in music as a child, her gifts in music, coupled with the hands-on experience of performing and learning by rote on her own, compensated for that lack.
She later formed the Blendwright Trio, a women's trio that included herself and two sisters-in-law, Audrey and Jackie. They toured widely, performing concerts of her music in the U.S., Bermuda, and Switzerland. Inspired by an online video of Wright performing near the end of her life, in February 1990, Yvette Harris Hodges would recall her experience as a child hearing the trio perform:
I remember when I was a kid the Blendwright trio came to visit St. Louis at Berean for a concert. The place was packed. The lights were off, and they just had spotlights on them. We had never heard anything like them before! The music was electrifying! The words made you think. She was such a gifted song writer and musician . . . .
In addition to gospel songs, Wright also wrote anthems and children's and wedding songs. She taught piano to children and wrote and illustrated the Keyboard Cousins Method for teaching that age group. She recorded on Chapel Records, Savoy Recordings, and her own Eleanor Wright label.
Del Delker, noted Voice of Prophecy singer, included one of her songs, Hallelujah, Home at Last, on a record of hers; Surely, Surely, a meditative song by Wright, is hymn 688 in the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. Naaman the Leper, Cover Me, and A Better Day, as well as others, are still sung by performers. Manna Music, Screen Gems, and Ariosa Music have published her music.
Wright's other interests included painting, interior decorating, and shortwave radio. In spite of her many activities, she raised a family of six children. At the time of her death, she was living in Germantown, Ohio.
Walter L. Wright, who was serving as Lake Union Conference Secretary Executive Secretary in 2000, wrote an editorial in the Lake Union Herald in December of that year in which he talked about his sister-in-law, ending with a memory about her and a Christmas song she had written years earlier:
One Day "Shellie" sat down at the piano to write out a Christmas carol straight from heaven, and I want to share the words and message with you for this special Christmas season of the new millennium. She wrote:
If you would give a gift so rare,
To one who means the world to you,
But wealth and fame are not your fare,
Don't hang your head and don't be blue.
While the world is wrapped in festive bliss,
Go join them and remember this:
The greatest gift all else above is love.
Behold a mother and her child,
An aged couple side by side,
A creature racing through the wild,
A young man with his blushing bride.
Then look to Him who gave his Son,
The greatest gift to everyone.
Then give the greatest you can give:
Love, love, while you live.
Eleanor Crews Wright
Sources: Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 619; "The Greatest Gift," editorial by Walter L.Wright, Lake Union Herald, December 2000, 2; Adventist Review, 2 February 1989, 10, 18 June 1992, 7; Nathan Wright and family and William Crews and family entries, 1930 U.S. Census.