Unity Praise Concert: A review
I did call for it and it came, though belatedly. This praise activity for God's mercies after the passage of Tropical Storm Erika was the brainchild of Nathalie Joseph. What a herculean effort symbolic of her faith and endurance and the assistance that she received from friends Ruby, Simeon and her sponsors.
Everyone, I was told, donated their services and these included Arden Sounds and Lights, artistes- both local and overseas, the Government of Dominica (through the use of the Windsor Park Stadium), sounds, lights and stage crew, bands and groups.
Just about 1,500 patrons attended the concert while 30 performances ranging from groups, dancers, soloist, pannist, chorographers to choirs of well over 100 participants, all gave a solid account of themselves. Indeed, what a wonderful nine hours of praise it was in Gospel music for life and health and in honour of God, the Christ who sustains life and has allowed us to come through the ravages of the storm.
Pan in Harmony, Lucia Lander dancers and Hilltop Singers are some of those who set the tone very early on, as the sun set, heralding the evening when Janae Jackson really serenaded the patrons with two reflective numbers. She was backed up by the NCCU Cadence winner Ti –Orkest who replaced the Swinging Stars (the Stars could not participate because of prior commitments). Calypsonian Beno, New Day Dancers and Leona who choreographed, gave good accounts of themselves also.
The St Alphonsus Choir which was to feature several times with their own repertoire as well as back up for Ophelia and Michele punctuated the spiritualism and harmony that Gospel concerts are renowned for. At first the mix was not the best because there were several distortions, but later on when the balance improved it was smooth sailing with the Lady of Song. Yes, Ophelia as she normally does in her old- school style sang out her soul to the Lord and culminated things with the 'Magnificat' a song written by Alwin Bully and performed in Cadence, her favorite and most renown genre.
I was impressed with Tracy Gail who presented powerful, controlled, clear vocals as she interacted with the crowd accompanied by the clean sound of her band.
Nonetheless, the most inspiring performance of the evening was that of the four singing sensations of the Seventh Day Adventist -Divine Echo. Sharzie, Nilon, Jerval and Jeran blew the audience away with their accapella blend and range of voices-from sopranos, tenor and bass. Jeran in particular was most impressive with the depth of bass-hollow notes he could unearth from his slender frame.
It is difficult to even comprehend how a group of youth persons still in their teens and early twenties could have been instilled with such discipline which afforded them time to develop such a repertoire and hone their obviously God-given talents- their voices being their only instrument! I, for one, could not get enough of these four guys and I can tell you people were still talking after they left the stage. This is a name to note and look out for in Dominica's music entertainment landscape.
Nathalie Joseph herself came to make her contribution; she said she was not deterred by the turn out as she believed that she was called from the secular world to give her talents to God's glory and win souls for Him. She ended a strong performance with "Holy Holy, Holy".
Michele Henderson, though brief, was compelling as always as she was accompanied by the St. Alphonsus Choir, conducted by Charlene Christian.
This signaled show time, as Yohann Henry, Godsend, Brothers of Destiny and the ever energetic Shernel and Sanctified paved the way for Mr. Fearless, J Prince and Sherwin Gardner, all popular overseas Gospel artistes who gave their talents freely to the cause.
Though somewhat lengthy, going pass 2 am, the show was a wonderful effort to raise funds for victims of Erica. These funds are to be directed mainly at schools and specific children.
While some critics argue about the advantages and disadvantages of mixing Gospel and secular artistes on one show, the practice may have some validity. But one cannot take anything from the effort of the organizers during a period when voluntarism is becoming a thing of the past, and church seats continue to be empty as people seek solace in the things of man, in themselves and in other worldly powers.