Twila Paris (1958–)
aka: Twila Inez Paris Wright
Twila Inez Paris Wright is a prolific contemporary Christian singer, songwriter, pianist, and author who lives in Fayetteville (Washington County). She is the winner of many Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards and American Songwriter Awards and has hundreds of published and recorded songs to her credit. Hymns and choruses she has composed have appeared in such widely varying hymn collections as the United Methodist Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal, as well as those of various Pentecostal and non-denominational churches.
Twila Paris was born on December 28, 1958, in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four children of Oren Paris II, the founder of Youth With A Mission ministries and Ecclesia College in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), and Rachel Inez Paris, a songwriter. She was raised in Elm Springs (Washington and Benton counties).
Paris was involved in church music since her childhood (having reportedly composed lyrics and melodies for songs since age two and studied piano since age six), but her career as a singer/songwriter and public figure essentially began in 1981 with the release of her first full-length album, Knowin’ You’re Around. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was at the forefront of the praise and worship movement among church musicians and Christian artists. In 1992, her album Sanctuary won the GMA Praise and Worship Album of the Year. Her Dove Awards include Female Vocalist of the Year for 1993 and 1994. In 1995, she won the GMA Song of the Year award for “God Is in Control”; she also made a popular music video for the song. Originally associated with Star Song Communications, her parent company EMI switched her to Sparrow Records in 1996. Her contract expired in 2003, and she then signed with the praise and worship label Integrity Music. Her first project for Integrity was He Is Exalted: Live Worship (2005).
Among Paris’s better-known compositions are “He Is Exalted,” “We Bow Down,” “Lamb of God,” and “We Will Glorify.” In December 2007, she released Small Sacrifice, which was made available only through her website and Lifeway Christian Stores. This album collects a number of her own favorite worship standards and presents them in a more typical style of live worship music, including a version of “He Is Exalted” in Portuguese as used by Christians in Brazil.
Paris has produced more than fifteen albums and has had over thirty number-one hit songs on the Christian Contemporary charts. She has worked with such well-known contemporary Christian artists as Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. In addition, she is a published author with several books to her credit that (as with her music) deal with personal worship and praise in devotional life, among them In this Sanctuary: An Invitation to Worship the Savior (1992, co-authored with Dr. Robert Webber) and Perennial: Meditations for Seasons of Life (1998).
A firm believer that Christian music should be accessible to all kinds of Christians, Paris works to cross over between the traditional hymnody of the denominational churches and the freer, more emotional praise and worship of the Charismatic/Pentecostal renewal. Although offered a full music scholarship to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, she believed that she was called by God for ministry and attended Youth With A Mission discipleship training instead.
Paris is married to Jack Wright of Fayetteville and has one son. The couple has worked with Youth With A Mission and various other church and para-church ministries. She has been a spokesperson for World Vision for several years and has performed a number of benefit concerts for that charity. In 2015, she was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
For additional information:
“The Sanctuaries of Twila Paris.” Contemporary Christian Music Magazine (November 1991).
Storm, Christie. “Springdale Singer Makes Hall of Fame.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 2, 2015, pp. 4B–5B.
“Twila Paris: Home for the Holidays.” Today’s Christian Woman (December 1994).
David O. Bowden
Little Rock, Arkansas
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