All star gospel show in Maryland
Thanks again to music journalist Seamus McGarvey for his report and photos from what looks quite some show in the US last month.
Gospel Program: Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Lanham, Maryland: 23rd August 2014
Rosetta Thompson (pictured below), wife of The Sensational Nightingales' Horace Thompson, promotes gospel programs three times a year in Lanham MD and manages to bring to Mt. Calvary Baptist church some of the best-known gospel quartets in the country.
This program was no exception with supporting quartets including Maryland's Southern Gospel Singers who really tore the place up; Little Sammy and The New Flying Clouds from Philadelphia who had some exciting call-and-response numbers in their repertoire; and D.C.'s Nate and The New Generation displaying an exciting revivalist feel, with Nate really getting the congregation fired up. Later in the program, The Soul Messengerz (below) sang 'One More Time' from their new CD, and the title track 'Only The Strong Survive' which developed into a heated workout, with the lead showing his vocal range and power.
Doc McKenzie and The Hi-Lites (pictured below) opened their set with the mid-tempo 'The Other Shore' before moving on to 'one of our old songs... - and if you like it, let us know; if not, fool us!' - 'Ride With Jesus', complete with a nice bit of preaching, and soulful yet low key testifying. Doc joked that the next number was 'an old country song... even though I know we're way up North!' as he led into the mid-tempo stepper 'Must Have Been Jesus'. It was fine vocals and harmonies all the way, with some insistent preaching, which took him out into the congregation. He was even hoisted up onto one of the benches at one point for more testifying, bringing their set to an exciting finish.
Darrell McFadden and The Disciples, (pictured below) a very active quartet with Darrell a formidable front-man, opened with 'Be Ready', a wonderfully pacey piece driven by Darrell and three backing singers. Suited in white, they exhibited wonderful verve and energy, their insistent 'I'm On My Journey Now' continuing the feel while Darrell, at times reminiscent of a young Solomon Burke, contributed some really hard-edged testifying in 'Never Alone'. Finishing on the wildly sanctified feel of 'Shackles', they proved to be yet another exceptional quartet, prompting the M.C. to ask the congregation, 'You still enjoying Jesus?', to which the reply was a resounding 'Yes!'
The Swanee Quintet were led by Percy Griffin, (pictured below) a member since the mid-to-late 1960s, who joked as he came onto the altar, 'I know I look good!' - and he did. He opened with the medium-stepping 'Eternal Life' and was in fine form, even singing someone a 'happy birthday', before another slow-stepper and a song he 'used to hear [his] mother sing round the house', 'Sit Down Servant', plus the mid-tempo 'Stumble And Fall'. Percy's godson Willie Jones, having overcome a lot of illness, delivered his version of 'Ups And Downs', providing a soul-stirring introduction to Percy's 'Dr. Jesus' which in turn gave way to some extended and exciting testifying from the two younger singers, Eddie McCoy and Koby Weaver. Percy closed beautifully with 'Georgia On My Mind', joking that 'this is probably sacrilegious!' but making for a great finish to The Swanees' impressive set.
The Sensational Nightingales (Joseph 'Jo Jo' Wallace, a member since 1951 (pictured below), Horace Thompson and Larry Moore) were recipients of a number of awards and presentations in recognition of their 68th Anniversary before 'Jo Jo' led everyone through 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus' with some passionate preaching. 'Something Beautiful' had a nice mid-tempo country feel, followed by the similarly-paced 'Hard Headed Jonah' and the effortlessly country-blues feel of' 'At The Meeting'. Larry led the beautiful 'He Was There All The Time' followed by Horace's tasteful treatment of 'See You In The Rapture' before slowing the pace to finish on 'Standing On The Promise'. A strong set from a classic quartet with a great history and sense of tradition.
Despite some recent voice problems, Harvey Watkins Jr. led The Canton Spirituals through a number of songs, demonstrating his abilities as a very expressive performer, using humour as a key part of getting his message across. 27-year-old lead singer Keenan Nichols (pictured below) shared some of the load, and - alongside Harvey's joke: 'you wouldn't believe I was 27 once!' - Keenan's 'Morning Dove' showed real vocal power and edge and the ability to testify, while Harvey responded with 'Show Me The Way' and 'Heavenly Choir', his late father Harvey Sr.'s song. They also performed 'Depending On You', written after his father died, and Keenan's handling of Harvey Jr.'s 'Hallelujah Square' was really impassioned. It was good to see them again.
Headliners The Mighty Clouds Of Joy featured legendary lead Joe Ligon who performed for half of the set, handing the reins over to younger members part-way through. One of the original members, Joe was in good voice, and with a stage presence befitting his years of experience in quartet performances. 'I've Been In The Storm Too Long' was taken at a measured pace and then it was 'back down memory lane', in Joe's words, for the testifying 'It's Another Day's Journey (I'm Glad About It)'. Still with a wide range and an edge to his vocals, Joe's closing' Heavy Load' really rocked the church. A great conclusion to a wonderful show.
Here are a couple of photos featuring Nate and the New Generation and Little Sammy and the New Flying Clouds.
Roll on the next program at the same venue on Saturday December 6th featuring Spencer Taylor and The Highway QCs, The Sensational Nightingales, The Swanee Quintet, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Canton Spirituals, The Pilgrim Jubilees and The Violinaires – quite a line-up! Seamus McGarvey (With thanks to Rosetta and Horace Thompson)