New York, NY
New York, New York
April 30, 2010.
Carnegie Hall is generally known for Classical Music and Pop music performances but on Wednesday, April 28, 2010, the SOLD OUT Carnegie Hall became a place of praise! “A Night of Inspiration” was presented by Chew Entertainment (Ray Chew & Vivian Scott- Chew) and featured an All-Star cast of Gospel and Pop Music royalty. The event was co-hosted by CNN Corespondent, Soledad O’Brien and A.R. Bernard, Pastor of Christian Cultural Center (one of the largest churches in New York City). The night started off with a Step Dance Troupe, clad in black and white, surrounding the entire theater. If you were asleep, you had no choice but to wake up as the troupe chanted the words “Do you love him”? “Will you praise him”?, without missing a step.
The first musical guest of the night was the man with the husky, soulful baritone, Michael McDonald, who did the song that he made famous with The Doobie Brothers, “Takin It To The Streets”. Dare I say Michael sounded just as good as he did in the 1970’s? Once the co-hosts for the evening hit the stage, it was evident that Pastor A.R. Bernard may have mentioned to his congregation that he was co-hosting the show as hundreds of his members were screaming and shouting words of praise for their leader. “The First Lady of Gospel”, Shirley Caesar, was introduced to the stage and did a stirring rendition of “He Never Fails” with the C3 Choir and had the whole crowd doing the “North Carolina Rock”! At this point the Sold Out crowd of over 2,800 were up on their feet, where they would pretty much stay for the rest of the night. Brother and Sister duo, BeBe & CeCe Winans walked on stage and looked ravishing in classic black and white evening wear. Naturally, they performed their hit “Close To You” as the crowd sang along to every word, proving that after 15 years apart, they have not missed a beat. Ray Chew and his orchestra didn’t miss a beat either as they played each song as if they recorded them in the studio with each artist.
Considering this was dubbed a “Night of Singing and Spoken Word”, notables such as Pauletta Washington, Pastor A.R. Bernard and Phylicia Rashad, all rendered great words of inspiration borrowed from great orators like Langston Hughes and John (from the bible). Bishop Hezekiah Walker is always a crowd favorite with his strong tenor voice and his energetic choir to back him up but even without his choir, he managed to bring the crowd to their feet and to tears as he had them sing to one another, “I Need You, You need me, We’re all a part of God’s body, I need you to survive”. Ending the first half of the show was the one and only Sheila E. who looked magnificent as she did when I had a crush on her well over twenty years ago. That aside, Sheila E along with the Community Baptist Church of Englewood took Israel & New Breed’s “All Around” and turned it into a bigger song than it already is. Sheila E went from the congas to the cymbals with such ease and even when one of the cymbals fell to the ground she was still beating them with such precision…..pure magic!
After Sheila E received a standing ovation one would think that the night was over but it was just getting started! After a short intermission, it was time for Round 2 and I must say to see gospel music presented without a Hammond organ on stage was a bit surprising but one “Hammond” did enter the stage…Fred Hammond that is. The crowd went crazy as if they did not know he was on the bill. The platinum selling, Grammy winning artist immediately went into songs (“Precious Lord” & “They That Wait”) from his latest album, “Love Unstoppable”. BeBe & CeCe Winans “graced” the stage yet again with their heartfelt song “Grace” and there was not a dry eye in the house. After Shirley Caesar and Patty Griffin went “Sweeping through the City”, Kurt Carr comes on stage dancing and shouting because the spirit of God was just that high. However, it did not stop there as Kurt Carr, along with lead singer Yvette Williams, performed one of his most popular songs, “For Every Mountain”. There was even more of a praise and Kurt admonished everyone to let loose in Carnegie Hall as he further stated, “You cannot contain the presence of God”. Bishop Hez returned with his #1 hit, “Souled Out” and although Ray Chew was the Director, in true Hezekiah fashion, Bishop Hez eventually led the choir to a reprise of “Souled Out” that was second to none. The night could not be complete without the Maestro himself, Richard Smallwood. Smallwood immediately sat at the baby grand piano and did a classic medley of “I Love the Lord” and “Total Praise”, in which Michael McDonald did the lead and did not sound bad at all. The night ended with a finale by everyone who participated, with a very fitting song; “Get Right Church and Let’s Go Home”. After this joyous night of worship and praise, it is evident that this night was designed for us to do just that, get things right in our life, in our family, in our churches and in our homes.