A musical affair to cherish
After laying out the red carpet and welcoming 11 of the most outstanding royal figures in the field of gospel music from Barbados and the United States, the stage at the Wildey Gymnasium was last weekend transformed into a centrepiece of the highest level of artistic excellence ever witnessed in Barbados.
Added to that, Barbadians and visitors had two nights of it –– Saturday and Sunday.
Quite appropriately, the event –– the first of its kind in this island –– was dubbed Queens Of Gospel Concert, headlining the who’s who in local and international Christian music.
The opening night started like a bomb. Musical explosions were set off by Laurianne, who placed the bar extremely high with her curtain-raising performance that bore all the elements of an international nature.
The Trinidadian-based Barbadian singing star stamped the power of her talent on patrons with her new hit single Believe (from the album Journey To Survival) and then blew everyone away with an out-of-this-world interpretation of I Love The Lord.
I have no doubt that Laurianne has got what it takes to become an international superstar.
The bombshells continued to rain down as another daughter of the soil graced the stage.
Barbados Music Awards Gospel Artist Of The Year nominee and Flame Gospel Music Award-winning act Neesha Woodz had her House In Order, as she deployed plenty Adrenaline when she encouraged her audience to Express Yourself.
Neesha rocked the Gymnasium so much with her soca renditons, that she received an encore and with a request to sing Fire Fire. She did, and it ended in a blaze of glory.
A third local songstress –– Toni Norville –– continued the musical explosions, raising the level and quality of the art form even higher. By the time she had completed her set, there was little doubt that all who came afterwards would have a tough act to follow.
Her top drawer performance –– shoes off and all –– saw Toni taking her vocal range and control to new heights as she sang Back Against The Wall (her newest single) and Survivor, a song she co-wrote.
The stage seemed to have become a little too small for Toni. She temporarily abandoned it and went into the audience, interacting as she continued her singing.
It was then time for visiting American singing sensation Michelle Williams to hit the stage. The loveable Michelle, whose music for the most part does not reflect the typical American gospel sound, delivered a medley of traditional songs early in her performance that signalled she would be one of the stand-outs of the night.
Her music has elements of African Caribbean vibes –– the bass drum being very prominent –– along with flavours of reggae and general Caribbean rhythms.
Michelle’s personality and verve add impact to this kind music, which, by extension, connected quite well with the Barbadian audience.
As she moved through the variety of selections, which already had people lapping up every bit of it, one could sense, the anticipation and build-up to that hit song everybody was waiting for.
If anyone in the audience was sleeping or bored, all that would quickly change when the musical introduction to Say Yes (When Jesus Say Yes Nobody Can Say No) kicked in. It was party time.
The sights and scenes inside the Wildey Gymnasium were unmistakable.
No one could say no to getting up and dancing, and singing along, and waving whatever they had, as Michelle and the excellent backing band blew off the roof with Say Yes. The bass drum and rhythm are evident in this song.
She, too, came down from the stage and performed among members of the audience.
At one point while onstage, Michelle invited fellow superstars Erica Campbell and Shirley Murdock to join her in singing.
It was a memorable sight! I must say that Michelle is one of my favourites of the Queens Of Gospel.
Another Barbadian-based singer Samantha Gooden did not lower the high level which had already been established. Her style, while more in the classical vocal vein, was nonetheless dynamic and classy.
International headliner Yolanda Adams closed off the first night with another dynamite performance, interspersed with life-changing personal testimonies. It was tantamount to ministry and song.
In fact, I was really feeling her. Her songs were as penetrating as her messages, which she sandwiched between renditions.
“The first thing I would tell an aspiring artist, is to have a true relationship with God, the One who gives you the ability to do what you do. If I depend on myself, I will lose the whole purpose of my ministry,” advised the multiple-award-winning acclaimed artist.
On the second and final night, local powerhouse Terrencia TC Coward opened the Queens Of Gospel Concert, demonstrating her usual high quality performance.
TC, who chose Love Will Save The Day as one of her songs, also spoke of a new journey she had started.
Explaining how she had ended up at a gospel concert, TC noted that she was now “walking in the light” by ministering songs for the good of others who needed uplifting.
The evergreen Sister Margrita Marshall, currently celebrating 56 years in the gospel music arena, and closing in on 76 years of age, continued the high standard that had been established the night before.
Her uptempo Caribbean rhythms, mixed with a groovy reggae piece of Jesus Is All I Have, proved why she is the darling of all in the local gospel music sphere.
But Sister Marshall, dressed in a bright red skirt suit, matching hat and white inside shirt, knows she can’t appear on any stage in Barbados and not sing Walk Holy. From the time she sang that song, the whole place “broke up”.
More “mashing up” was to come as she ended with a medley that included He Never Failed Me Yet, Marching On and My Mind’s Made Up.
Needless to say, the screems from patrons echoed throughout the Gymnasium and lingered for minutes after Sis Marshall departed the stage and the band continued playing and she continued singing –– out of view.
Four-time Grammy awardee Erica Campbell, half of the Mary Mary duet, kept thing on a high.
She stirred souls –– as evidenced from crowd reactions –– with mesmerizing versions of big song, after big song. Included were Help, from the 2014 Grammy Award Winning Gospel Album Of The Year, as well as It Is Well With My Soul and Looking Like.
She is another favourite of mine.
Shirley Murdock, who was also headlining from the United States, impacted the concert with a spirited and inspiring musical offering. Up to this point, all of the artistes were being felt and were empowering.
But CeCe Winans, who brought the event to an end, appeared disconnected from the moment. The acclaimed multiple-award-winning iconic gospel singer/songwriter seemed to be going through the motions of performance.
In fact, several members of the audience were heard to have said –– independently of each other –– that they were either not feeling her or that something seemed to be wrong with her.
“She looked vex, like something was wrong with her,” a patron stated.
“She seemed to have an attitude,” another declared.
“I wasn’t feeling her,” pointed out a patron, who however added that they enjoyed everything else.
Her negative attitude seemed to have been extended to her playlist of songs. She thought it important to draw the audience’s attention to the fact that the list placed on the stage in front of her did not belong to her; that it was Shirley Murdock’s fast songs.
That list was immediately replaced by hers. But CeeCee complained that the words were now too small, even as she bent over to read the paper put in the same place on the stage.
After reading the list, she eventually continued her performance that included songs such as More And More, Mercy Said No and His Strength Is Perfect.
Apart from that diversion, the inaugural Queens Of Gospel Concert last Saturday and Sunday at the Wildey Gymnasium was a truly royal and empowering event of the highest class.