Faith is at the center of Cora Harvey Armstrong’s 50-year career in gospel music. She was born and raised in the tiny Newtown community of King and Queen County, Virginia. Her family members were dedicated church attendees, and deeply spiritual. Armstrong remembers being enthralled by church music at an early age; she surprised her family and congregation with her ability to play piano by ear at the age of five. Her parents decided to enroll her in piano lessons, where she learned to read music. She soon joined her sisters Clara and Virginia with their mother for the family’s singing group, The Harvey Family.
Armstrong played and sang at the church regularly, going on to serve as her home church’s musical director for more than 40 years. She studied music at Virginia State University, where she joined the VSU Gospel Chorale under its legendary director, Larry Bland. She began accompanying the group on piano in the 1970s and later assisted with directing the group, and with them wrote, performed, and recorded original compositions. A much acclaimed performing artist regionally and abroad, Armstrong has concertized and lectured in Japan, and toured Europe with Stellar Gospel Music Award-winning artist Earl Bynum. Armstrong is studying for her master of divinity degree at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Divinity at Virginia Union University, and continues to sing and spread her ministry with the Harvey Singers. Richmond-born musician and producer Bill McGee describes Armstrong as “Aretha Franklin on piano, Mahalia Jackson with her voice, and Shirley Caesar with her style.” That’s high praise indeed.