The moment I heard about this concert happening, I planned to write a professional, academic, artistic critique of the performance. It’s what I do. Plans make God laugh, though, because only His plans matter. There will be no critique/review in this story. So much more than just a mere concert took place last Sunday. All of the performers knew they were not at Carnegie Hall. They didn’t need to be. They were doing the Lord’s work. The event’s theme? “Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before his presence with singing”. Serve, they did. Abundantly.
Williams Memorial CMI Temple, in its temporary new space (Shreveport West’s former outlet mall), while they await repairs to their home church, presented a concert which featured Shreveport’s own Brenda Wimberly, and John Collins. The soprano and bass volleyed numbers between them, in a programme which offered arias, art songs, musical theatre and Sprituals, accompanied by pianist, Jonathan Fountain.
What stunned, is that the event was, in every aspect, a multi-generational masterclass in music appreciation, worship, concert etiquette, exposure to new kinds of music, and the shared musical, and spiritual, consumption of the audience members present. The, more than appreciative, crowd ranged in age from toddlers, to “GROWN FOLK” in their eighties, and 90s. Two of the youngest offered their own blessings to the gathering, in the forms of, emotive Praise Dancer, Miss Kristine McKee; and crooner-supreme, Master Ethan Reed, who appeared to me, perhaps, seven years of age. His, worldly, rendition of “What a Wonderful World”, popularized by the great Louis Armstrong, was a showstopper. My favorite part: THIS kid actually watches the CONDUCTOR!
“The African-American Art Song is an
The concert, in a recital-esque format, featured the works of Handel, Gershwin, Purcell, Rogers & Hammerstein, H.T. Burleigh, Betty Jackson King, Linda Twine, and others. Of particular intrigue was Ms. Wimberly’s performance of “The Prayer”, an African-American Art Song, by living, African-American composer, Leslie Adams. Per Ms. Wimberly’s patter, “The African-American Art Song is an extension of the negro spiritual.” She is, of course, correct. This music was not for a reviewer. It was an offering to the Lord, for all its power, and sincerity.
Ms. Wimberly is a daughter of Shreveport, with a soul anchored in gospel music roots. She recognized, however, that there was more she wanted to say, and classical music would provide that voice. Mr. Collins, also a native Shreveporter seemed to earnestly source the messages of his selections. Both singers hold university degrees (Baccalaureate and/or Masters) in Vocal Performance.
Their credits, far more broad, ranging, and impressive than space will permit here, include some of the nation’s greatest stages, and collaborations with some of the world’s most famous artists.
Though not a “review”, per se, I’ll tell you what I observed, in a nutshell. The soprano has an impressive range. She tells the tale of the piece with every atom in her DNA. She has a jewel-toned ring, and clarity throughout the range, and is equally adroit singing perched, “sul fiato” (on the breath), “singing in the rafters” (the highest notes in her range), or “riffing” through a soulful, plaintive, phrase, serving praise.
Our Basso is, at once, channeling Robeson, and Rawls, and just as devoted to communicating his selections from the Oratorio, and Spirituals menu with his thundering lows, and interpretive focus. Based on today’s programming, I’m uncertain if he is a “basso profundo”, but the man has the notes to “Bass” with the best of them.
Wimberly stunned in Twine’s “Changed My Name”. Collins slayed with his “Memories” (The Way We Were). The standing ovations for these two artists were non-stop, generous, and genuine. The audience savored every note. Every sonorous offering served unto them.
I’d be remiss, had I failed to mention the the sensational choral ensemble, “The Temple Voices”. This, sixteen-voiced, ensemble were shockingly powerful despite their size. Voices of clarity, power, skill, and training, surely pleased. Under the direction of their Minister of Music (Fountain), they surely shined.
Their collaboration with Ms. Wimberly on Burleigh’s “Order My Steps” was “Gospel”, and had audience members swaying, waving, talking, and yelling encouragement to the artists. To hear an excerpt of this piece, visit our website, and look for this article: http://sunweeklynews.com.
They, all, sang for the gratitude of blessings received, and a “review” wasn’t even of the slightest importance. This writer has attended recitals, operas, and concerts throughout the USA, and Europe. Not one, not a single one, was filled with more heart, more community, more God, or more love. The songs got SUNG! The MIC got DROPPED! Musical Sunday “soul-food” was served. I have nothing else to say. Except, Thank you, Y’all. And, Amen.
Listen to an excerpt of "Order My Steps":