Harlem Gospel Choir Feb. 26, 2005
Lifted Up by the Harlem Gospel Choir at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise" (Psalm 98:4).
We’ve heard some mighty fine gospel singing at Cerritos in the past and have felt an elevation of the spirit a few times before in the great cathedral, er hall. Still, the visit of the Harlem Gospel Choir this week was special and sanctified by the energy and pure inspired singing of this talented ensemble from NYC. Allen Bailey’s near twenty year journey from Harlem finally landed the ten singers and three man band in the Performing Arts Center on a totally appropriate Sunday. They made for some roof-shaking, soul-warming music done with a fervor that belied its spiritual roots. Each member of the troupe had their chance to shine and each kept the praise and energy high while once in a while dipping into the audience/slash congregation for help.
Sister Tiffany brought church to order with the show commencing “This Is the Day” and opened some eyes and ears alongside the crisp choir harmony and colorful costumes shining from the crowded stage. Brother Craig began a trend of visiting the folks in the hall on “I Believe I Can Fly” while strolling from section to section, bonding with the faithful and crooning most sweetly.
The utterly electrifying Sister Marshette just tore the place up with a high-octane “Man from Galilee” utilizing a strength of voice that could have been heard on old Mt. Hebron. Along the way some very brave audience participators raised arms and wavering voices for the lord.
A set of spirituals settled nicely including a fiery “Ride on King Jesus,” the always wise “Down by the Riverside” and “This Little Light of Mine” that shined from upper balcony to the back of the stage. The Harlem Gospel Choir is comprised of an all-star team of church singers from that part of New York and these men and women are very, very good. The second half of the show didn’t require much seat-time for the exuberant crowd who danced and shouted their refrains to the up-tempo thrills of “Joyful, Joyful,” with Sister Joshua’s elevating vocal and Brother Eric’s touch of gospel rap. “O Happy Day” was sweetened by Sister Sister Tammy’s singing, the good-natured Nancy joining from the first rows and pretty ten year old Margie getting a scarf in commemoration of the fund for the children. There was also the show closing thrills and chills of “I Get Joy” that sent people into the winter afternoon with a nice glow on. Highlights in the wonderful closing chapters was the country preacher’s blues-shouting stylings on “I Know Jesus” and the secular made sacred on the group’s very own “Celebration” with a stage packed with audience including local luminaries gripped by the spirit. This was the first visit to the Performing Arts Center for the HGC but it looks like they have made a convert or two thousand. Allen Bailey and his Harlem Gospel Choir made a joyful noise, they made an agreeably loud noise, and they rejoiced, and sang praise.