Patrinell Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir performing, with Pat in the foreground singing with her eyes closed

PHOTO ESSAY | Honoring a Seattle Icon: Pastor Patrinell Wright

by Susan Fried


Over the 25 years I’ve worked as a photojournalist, I’ve photographed Pastor Patrinell Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir literally hundreds of times. Pat and the TEGC seemed to be at almost every event I covered. They sang at the annual July 4 Naturalization Ceremony at Seattle Center, the gathering of Black families called the ROOTS Family Celebration, the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Garfield High School — basically any meaningful event in Seattle, Pat and her choir were there. 

When they weren’t performing in Seattle, they were traveling, singing gospel all over the United States and 22 countries. They sang the national anthem for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, and were backup singers for Heart and the Dave Matthews Band. That alone would make Pat Wright’s legacy meaningful, but she and the choir didn’t just sing. They served the community.

For years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pat and the Choir traveled to New Orleans to volunteer. They returned half a dozen times to the Lower Ninth Ward, both helping to rebuild the community and singing gospel.

Patrinell Wright impacted so many people’s lives in Seattle and the world. Her legacy will live on for generations. Anyone lucky enough to see Patrinell Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir perform was blessed by the experience. I can happily say I was one of the lucky ones.

Former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and his wife, Constance, pose with Patrinell Wright
Former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and his wife, Constance, pose with Patrinell Wright at the 2014 ROOTS (Relatives of Old Timers) Family Celebration at Jimi Hendrix Park.
Patrinell Wright holds a microphone and smiles with her fist raised during a performance at the Mural Amphitheatre in 2013
Patrinell Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir perform at the Mural Amphitheatre during Bumbershoot in 2013.
Patrinell Wright smiling and singing into a microphone near a keyboard player at the ROOTS Family Picnic
Patrinell Wright sings at the annual ROOTS Family Celebration at Jimi Hendrix Park.
Patrinell Wright sitting and smiling while watching a film
Patrinell Wright attends a screening of the film Patrinell: The Total Experience!, Sept. 18, 2019, at McCaw Hall. The film chronicled the history of Seattle’s Total Experience Gospel Choir and its acclaimed director Patrinell Wright through the 45 years she led the choir.
Patrinell Wright with her face raised and eyes closed singing into a microphone at a 2018 performance at the Moore Theater
Patrinell Wright sings during the final concert of the Total Experience Gospel Choir on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2018, at the Moore Theater. Hundreds of people showed up to show their love and respect for Pat Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir’s 45 years of uplifting and entertaining people around the world.
Patrinell Wright with her arm around a longtime member of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, both of them holding microphones to sing and looking into the distance
Patrinell Wright and a longtime member of the Total Experience Gospel Choir on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2018, at the Moore Theater. Hundreds of people showed up to show their love and respect for Patrinell Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir’s 45 years of uplifting and entertaining people around the world.
Patrinell Wright says a few words about her friend and mentor Rev. Samuel McKinney in front of a banner that bears his name and the words "CELEBRATION OF LIFE"
Patrinell Wright says a few words about her friend and mentor Rev. Samuel McKinney during the 2018 ROOTS Family Celebration at Jimi Hendrix Park.
The Total Experience Gospel Choir performs at BAAMFest; Patrinell Wright is looking directly at the camera as she sings into a microphone
The Total Experience Gospel Choir performs at BAAMFest at Rainier Beach Community Center in 2018.
Patrinell Wright and Michelle Purnell-Hepburn look at a photograph together and reminisce
Total Experience Gospel Choir leader Patrinell Wright, a teller at Liberty Bank when it opened in 1968, reminisces with Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, the daughter of the founders of Liberty Bank, the first African American-owned bank in Seattle, before the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Liberty Bank Building at 2320 E. Union St. in Seattle’s historic Central District June 19, 2017.
The 2015 honoree Eddie Rye presents the Rev. Patrinell “Pat” Wright with the Servant of the People award
The 2015 honoree Eddie Rye presents the Rev. Patrinell “Pat” Wright with the Servant of the People award at the third annual Through the Eyes of Art: A Black History Month Celebration, Feb. 26, 2016, at the Experience Music Project (now known as the Museum of Pop Culture).
Josephine Howell sings a tribute song to Total Experience Gospel Choir leader Pastor Patrinell Wright
Josephine Howell sings a tribute song to Total Experience Gospel Choir leader Pastor Patrinell Wright, who was honored for her contributions to gospel music in Seattle at Gospel Fest, June 3, 2017, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
A photo of Patinell Wright with a hand raised and smiling as she and the Total Experience Gospel Choir sing at an event in the late 1990s
Pastor Patrinell Wright leads the Total Experience Gospel Choir at an event in the late 1990s.

Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, and commercial work — plus, shes been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washingtons The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.

📸 Featured Image: Pat Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir performed at the Fourth Annual Gospel Extravaganza at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Oct. 25, 2008.

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