Great highs, dull lows

The much anticipated Independence Gospel Explosion came off at the Wildey Gymnasium last Sunday evening without the expected blast. The event, which featured no fewer than a dozen local, regional and international artistes, had its highs and lows –– and even though there were more highs than lows, the lows were much too low. 

For example, the Gospel Explosion sank to a particularly low point as Allison Norville-Forde and her backing group seemed to have been filling the time for international headliner Vashwan Mitchell to hit the stage to close the show. That period appeared to drag on too long, compounded by the very low-keyed and slow songs chosen at a time of the night when patrons needed selections to keep them awake and boost their spirits.

Having already sat –– or stayed –– through a long night, people required a good stimulus, especially approaching the climax of an event that carried the banner Gospel Explosion, to usher them into the curtain closer.

People ask what’s in a name. Everything, I say. Names send messages. A name is a marketing tool, and when used to lure people to buy into the product, or to embrace it, then such promotion ought to live up to its name. I would suggest that if organizers of an event are going to create certain expectations for their consuming public, they should not take anything for granted, and should therefore ensure the overall choice of songs/music reflects what they are “selling”.

My point is: producers or organisers ought to take their “brands” more seriously, and not just “throw” banners around. I hope that was not the case for last weekend’s Independence Gospel Explosion.

I must also say that the explosive aspects were explosive. Very few people would disagree, for instance, that ten-year-old Shem White, a pupil of Hillaby Turners Hall Primary School, was the bomb. Shem, a fearless, confident, charismatic and dynamic performer, created the kind of explosion that had the hundreds of people screaming for more as he left the stage after his set.

Shem White
Shem White

And if that was not enough, when international award-winning gospel artist Bridget Blucher came on later to sing, she was so moved by Shem’s performance, that she gave him the encore he deserved and invited him to join her on stage to do By The Rivers Of Babylon. He did not disappoint. With Blucher already hyping up the congregation, Shem merely added value to that moment in time.

Bridget Blucher
Bridget Blucher

Another big moment came from powerhouse vocalist Trenacia Esseboon-McKend, who succeeded in her efforts to Break Every Chain, along with other stirring selections, ably supported by the doyen of chorale/choir directors, Lester Welch, and his backup vocal group.

There was also a blast from Praise United, who rocked the Wildey Gym. The energetic Sheldon Hope showed his stage experience and vocal prowess, Gozzy injected his hallmark reggae vibes that had worshippers swaying, Dave Cumberbatch was inspiring, Sherry Ann Maughn –– the 2014 Flow Gospel Challenge queen –– made her presence felt, James Leacock doubled as emcee and performer, and multiple award-winning recording act from Trinidad and Tobago, Sherwin Gardner, appeared to have been trying a little harder than usual to get the patrons going.


I cannot recall the last time I left an event I was covering before it ended. But it was taking much too long for the “final” act to come on, and the “filling” selections by Allison Norville-Forde and her background singers made waiting such a yawn, that sleep started to nag me.

So, I cannot say anything about the performance of international headliner Vashwan Mitchell.

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