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Reverend Brenda Boone Productions
& the Higher Praise Community Choir Presents
A "Soul Stirring" Gospel Legendary Reunion
Portsmouth, VA, March 24, 2013


 

On March 23, 2013, we (Charlie & Pam) traveled to Portsmouth, VA, for the Reverend Brenda Boone’s gospel program.  When we landed in Portsmouth it was a beautiful day – seventy degrees and sunny – while much of the country was blanketed by a late March snowstorm.  We were concerned for the concert the next day (March 24), since the forecast for Portsmouth was for much colder temperatures, heavy rain and high winds.

Foremost on our minds were the memories of previous years’ gospel concerts and the rich history of quartet singing in the Tidewater area.  [Tidewater is the collective term for the low lying coastal Virginia areas of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach and Newport News.]  Who can ignore the 150 year musical history that includes the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, the Silver Leaf Quartet,  the Golden Gate Quartet, the Five Keys, the Avalons, the Sheiks, the Chateaus and many more.

This year’s concert was to be held in Portsmouth, birthplace of Ruth Brown.  We took the opportunity to walk around the Olde Towne section of Portsmouth, a one square mile historic district with a large collection of architecturally important 18th and 19th Century homes.


Historic Olde Towne section of Portsmouth, VA


Charlie in Portsmouth.  Magnolias were in bloom.


Obviously, this is where Ruth Brown was born


We didn't realize Bill Deal of the Rhondels was born in Portsmouth until we saw this street sign.
For more info on Bill Deal, see www.billdealonline.com


The producer of the gospel program was Reverend Brenda Boone who also manages the Higher Praise Community Choir of Hampton Roads.  We’ve attended two previous gospel programs produced by Rev. Boone and found them very inspirational.  This year promised to be especially exciting, with the honored guests being the Soul Stirrers.  Joining the Soul Stirrers for this concert would be former Soul Stirrers’ lead (and now member of the Golden Gate Quartet), Frankie Davis.

On Sunday morning, we spotted a member of the Soul Stirrers in our hotel and learned from him that the rest of the Soul Stirrers would soon be coming down to the lobby shortly.  Jeffrey (JD), the group's guitarist, was soon joined by long time Soul Stirrers’ Leroy Crume and Arthur Crume.  They were almost immediately joined by Frankie Davis.  We have been friends with Frankie Davis for some time, having known him through our association with the Golden Gate Quartet.  Prior to singing with the Gates, Frankie had been the lead of the Soul Stirrers and his voice is remarkably similar to the late Sam Cooke who also led the Soul Stirrers.

 


Soul Stirrers' JD, Arthur Crume with Charlie Horner


Left to right: Leroy Crume, Frankie Davis, J.D., Arthur Crume


Left to right: Charlie Horner, Leroy Crume,
Frankie Davis, Pam Horner, J.D., Arthur Crume

 

While we were talking to the Soul Stirrers, our friends Jim Bakay (WRDV Radio), Carl Tancredi and Holly Heinz joined us, having driven in from Philadelphia, PA.


Left to right, top: Frankie Davis, Leroy Crume, Jim Bakay
Front: J.D., Arthur Crume


Left to right: Frankie Davis,Leroy Crume, Carl Tancredi, Jim Bakay,
J.D., Holly Heinz, Arthur Crume

 

We all started out for Willett Hall, a 2000 seat entertainment facility in Portsmouth with known outstanding acoustics.


Willett Hall, Portsmouth, VA


The Willett Hall stage
(Photo from www.willett-hall-portsmouth.com)

 

Prior to the program, Leroy Crume entertained the audience by talking about how he joined the Soul Stirrers at the age of 20, being born into a sharecropper family in Swift, MO.  Leroy was with the Soul Stirrers during the Sam Cooke era of the 1950's.  He fascinated us with stories of singing with the Soul Stirrers in Europe and his friendships with Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke and many others.  We have a huge collection of Soul Stirrers recordings in our archives already but we were quick to purchase two of their newer CD's.


Soul Stirrers' Leroy Crume


Soul Stirrers Live CD from 2002


The program began shortly after 4 PM with Reverend Brenda Boone offering a prayer.  We were then introduced to gospel comedian and WPCE radio personality, Steven Alexander, who would emcee the event.  Steven Alexander is a hilarious comedian and one of the best emcees we've seen in a long time.  He emceed the last several gospel programs that Rev. Boone produced and we were glad to see him back for this one.


Steven Alexander (right)


Opening the concert were five-year-old Jessica Elise and her sister Jada.  They delighted the audience with the vocal duet of "This Little Light Of Mine". 


Five-year-old Jessica and sister Jada


Sister Cynthia Silver sang a powerful rendition of "God Did It".


Sister Cynthia Silver


The Mighty Stars, the band that in the past backed Frankie Davis, gave us one song but it was memorable.  Their instrumental of "Walk Around Heaven All Day" featured an unbelievably great saxophone player who brought his sax down into the audience.


The Mighty Stars Gospel Band


Mighty Stars sax player


Evangelist Tracy Edwards-Wright gave us acappella renditions of a few songs including "I Made Up My Mind" and "Sending Up My Timbers".  Tracy has written twenty inspirational books.  She also talked of recently losing her father who sang with the Singing Larks, a gospel quartet that we know recorded for the Fink-Pinewood label.


Evangelist Tracy Edwards-Wright


The Gospel Disciples were one of the many highlights of the program for us.  We'd never seen this group before and they shocked us by opening their set with an acappella version of "Learning To Lean On Jesus".  As a trio, the group had outstanding harmony.  They then brought on a band who backed them on the next couple numbers.  Again in great harmony, the Gospel Disciples sang "Oh Lord I've Come To Receive My Blessing".  For their final number, the group gave gospel lyrics to the Heavy D & the Boyz' tune "Now That We Found Love" and turned it into "Now That We've Found God".  Great job!  For decades R&B groups have been taking gospel songs and changing the lyrics to secular ones.  It's only fair that a gospel group changes a secular song into a gospel song.  The Gospel Disciples have three CD's out, which we immediately purchased.  We're looking forward to seeing this group again.


    

The Gospel Disciples


The Gospel Disciples


The Gospel Disciples


One of three CD's by the Gospel Disciples

 


WPCE Radio's Jermaine JJ Johnson making an appearance



Another group that impressed us that we hadn't seen before was the Hurdle Brothers of Portsmouth, VA.  They sang "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," "I've Got A Right To The Tree Of Life" and "Because He Lives"


The Hurdle Brothers


The Hurdle Brothers


The Hurdle Brothers


Sister Carolyn Smith gave us nice renditions of "I Want Jesus To Walk With Me," "Falling In Love With Jesus" and "Walk Around Heaven All Day".


Sister Carolyn Smith


Up next was Rev. Brenda Boone & the Higher Praise Community Choir of Hampton Roads, directed by Steven Alexander.  They began with "One More Time," a song that gave a number of the singers a chance to sing lead.  We are always excited to hear this choir, especially when the lead voice is one of our favorite singers, Sister Mattie Wood.  Sister Mattie Wood led the choir on "What A Wonderful God" and it was obvious she was enjoying herself and didn't want to leave the stage.  We've been fans of hers since her records on the Pinewood label in the 1970's.  Thank you Rev. Boone for your work with the Higher Praise Community Choir.


  

The Higher Praise Community Choir.  Steven Alexander (front).
Reverend Brenda Boone (right).


Rev. Brenda Boone


Sister Mattie Wood


Sister Mattie Wood's 1975 recording of
"Maybe You".  Mattie recalls the group
backing her on this record is the
Southern Hummingbirds.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


Recent CD by Rev. Brenda Boone & Higher Praise Community Choir


Another of our favorite groups from previous years' programs is the Word Singers from Norfolk, VA.  They opened with "Today" and followed it with "Don't Mind Waiting At The Gate," a song led by Frankie Davis (different from the Frankie Davis who we'd later hear sing with the Soul Stirrers), who also wrote the song.


The Word Singers


The Word Singers


The Word Singers latest CD


It's always exciting to see Elder Ronnie Harper & the Harmonizing Echoes sing.  In previous programs, Elder Harper brings his high energy singing down into the audience, but the venue's stage didn't permit that this time.  Still, Elder Ronnie Harper didn't disappoint, singing such Harmonizing Echoes favorites as "A Good Man," "Real Love" and "I want To Be Real".


The Harmonizing Echoes


Elder Ronnie Harper


Elder Ronnie Harper & the Harmonizing Echoes


Of course, one of the gospel vocal harmony groups we always want to see is Van Jones & King David's Harp.  Another spectacular set from the group again this year!  They started with a short verse from "Saving My Soul" and then launched into acappella versions of "Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross" and "The Denial," a song that we gave them (in fact they acknowledged us from the stage).  Singing with music, they then gave us an incredible renditions of "Jesus I Love You" and "Too Far To Turn Around".  Great job, guys!


King David's Harp


King David's Harp


King David's Harp
 

Van Jones & King David's Harp CD

 

One of the super stars of gospel music is Rev. Luther Barnes.  We've seen him sing with the Sunset Jubilaires of Rocky Mount, NC, on previous programs and he's always been outstanding.  This year was no exception.  Rev. Barnes led a great set, starting with "Waiting On You Lord" followed by "Heaven On My Mind," "He'll Do Just What He Said," Yet Lord" and "Keep On Leaning On The Lord".

Rev. Barnes dedicated his hit song "It's Your Time" to Rev. Brenda Boone.  He closed with "Keep On Blessing Me".


Rev. Luther Barnes & Sunset Jubilaires


Rev. Luther Barnes & Sunset Jubilaires


Rev. Luther Barnes



As great as the program was so far, there was still the featured group of the evening coming up - the Legendary Soul Stirrers!

Leroy Crume started the set off by leading the group in "Here I Am Again," as song he wrote.  Leroy had been with the Soul Stirrers as far back as the Sam Cooke days in the mid 1950's.  His brother, Arthur Crume, another long time Soul Stirrer sang and played guitar along with JD.  Frankie Davis, now a member of the Golden Gate Quartet (located in Paris), was reunited with his former group, the Soul Stirrers, for the first time in many years!  Leroy explained that back in the day, Frankie Davis had been recommended to the Soul Stirrers by the Mighty Clouds Of Joy.


The Soul Stirrers, Left to right:
JD, Frankie Davis (special guest), Arthur Crume, Leroy Crume
 

Frankie Davis led the group in the Sam Cooke song, "God Is Standing By".  Leroy and Frankie shared the leads on an incredible "Be With Me Jesus".  Frankie Davis then sang "Touch The Hem Of His Garment" in his "Sam Cooke voice".


The Soul Stirrers


Frankie Davis


The Soul Stirrers
 

Leroy Crume sang "Resting Easy".  At this point the audience began shouting for Frankie Davis to sing "A Change Is Gonna Come," a tradition at these yearly gospel concerts.  At this point, Frankie Davis was fighting a severe cold and the set was beginning to take it's toll on his voice.  He gallantly started the song, allowing Leroy to finish it.  It was a magnificent and historic set and everyone left the hall quite pleased.


Frankie Davis & Leroy Crume
singing "A Change Is Gonna Come"

 

After the program, we had a chance to socialize with some of our friends.  Though the concert had been almost five hours long, we hardly left our seats for fear of missing anything.  What a great time.  We can't wait until next year!


Charlie Horner, Jim Bakay, Carl Tancredi, Otis Jones (King David's Harp)


Pam Horner, Otis Jones (King David's Harp), Rev. Brenda Boone (program producer).


Otis Jones, Charlie Horner, Van Jones (King David's Harp)


For reviews and photos of past Portsmouth VA Gospel concerts click 2010 VA Gospel Concert or 2012 VA Gospel Concert.

 

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