Crowns: A Gospel Musical Delight

A soul-stirring Gospel musical written by the award-winning American actress and playwright, Regina Taylor is making its way to Theatre Tuscaloosa this Friday. The musical, named “Crowns” is expected to reach into the souls of the audience with its soaring vocals and inspiring worship tunes.
Set in a typical contemporary Southern church, “Crowns” follows a troubled 17-year old named Yolanda (played by Ashley Jones) who moves in with her grandmother in South Carolina, following the death of her brother.

Young Yolanda finds herself under the mentorship of Mother Shaw (NorQuina Rieves), learning about the traditions surrounding Southern headgear and what it takes to be a church “Hat Queen”.
This is precisely what makes this play shine. Its creative usage of lavish church hats creates a colorful display in the Southern style church pews stage setting, bringing forth the characters, and making “Crowns” a spectacular tribute to the rich and lively Carolinian gospel church scene. Theatre Tuscaloosa sought “Crowns” as part of its mission to represent all cultures in its community.

“Our community can identify with these characters,” said Tina F. Turley, executive producer. “Theatre Tuscaloosa needs to tell our community stories… some of our stories are white, some of our stories are black, some of our stories are Asian-American. We’ve got lots of stories to tell, as far as ethnic background.”

Some in the audience could experience immediate recognition, while others may be going to school.
“They are going to reminisce who wore hats in their lives, or they’re going to learn about this culture: the culture of black churches and the mothers, the women that wore hats, and the whys behind it, and the sacrifices they make to do it,” said Mark Moore, guest director and choreographer for this run of “Crowns.” Luvada Harrison is musical director.

“Crowns” falls under the category of a jukebox musical, meaning it uses existing songs, rather than writing new work for the score. Though it leans heavily on gospel, “Crowns” also draws from jazz, spirituals, blues, reggae, R&B and hip-hop. Romps such as “When the Saints Go Marching In” will encourage audience members to join with the cast, clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

But whether an audience member identifies with the culture of black churches, or comes to the experience with an open mind, “Crowns” can transcend race and gender, said Catherine Doughty-Walker, who’s playing Wanda.

“You will laugh, you will cry, and by the end, you’ll probably be friends with the ladies in ‘Crowns’,” she said.

Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Feb. 21-22, with 2 p.m. matinees Sunday, Wednesday and Feb. 23-24, all in the Bean-Brown Theatre at Shelton State Community College. Tickets are $24 general; $20 for seniors, Shelton State employees, and members of the military; and $16 for students and children.

An Unforgettable Martin Luther King Concert

The legendary icon of social justice, Martin Luther King was celebrated in an incredibly unforgettable gospel concert. The rocking show took place upon the famous Leo Rich Stage in Tucson, Arizona.

The tribute show boasted an impressive list of musicians, all of whom gathered to honour the great Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, a man celebrated for his fight for African Americans during the 1960s. The concert featured artists from an extremely wide spectrum of musical styles. Gospel choirs, an American Idol, jazz and blues singers, pop singers and a youth string orchestra all shared the stage for this momentous occasion.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration in Music, presented by the Tucson Musicians Museum, featured the Neon Prophet front-man Dave Dean, a gospel staple of the Tucson scene. The vocalist from this famed reggae band has been a part of the Tucson scene for roughly 30 years. The band’s dancehall melodies infused with Christian themes is what has kept them strong for all these years. Over the years players have come and gone, but the core members like David Dean- Vocals and Bass, and Jamie Cirrito-Bass and Vocals, have remained constant

Katie Haverly at the MLK concert at Leo Rich Theatre.Credit: Julius Schlosburg

“American Idol” contestant and blues/jazz/pop singer Crystal Stark brought her mesmerizing voice to the party.  The Tucson native is an Arizona favourite. Her appearance was met with deafening roars. Stark, who has achieved worldwide fame, still manages to keep her Christian spirit alive, a little fact that makes her one of the most beloved vocalists in the whole state.

Other artists that headlined the meaningful concert; the George Howard Band, Russell Long and Oscar Chavez, Steven Wilhite and his Gospel Choir, jazz singer Julie Anne Boos, folk-rock singer Katie Haverly, blues diva Anna Warr, Sink Like A Stone Band, Latin-pop newcomers Tonight’s Sunshine and maestro Dennis R. Bourret and his Tucson Junior Strings youth orchestra. A lineup that made it a supremely eclectic experience, while at the same time upholding the spirit of the Lord, Jesus Christ, making it a celestial and soulful experience.

Tucson Junior Strings. Courtesy Tucson Junior Strings via Facebook
Tucson Junior Strings. Courtesy Tucson Junior Strings via Facebook

Musicians performed a range of songs, many of them from the actual Civil Rights movement. Crowds described the experience as an emotional and musical time-capsule.  The atmosphere was uplifting and energizing for all present. It would be fair to say that the late Martin Luther King would have been immensely moved by the musical experience. With a combination of gospel praise, uplifting atmosphere, a joyful Tucson crowd and a spirit of hope and peace all packed into one unforgettable night.

 

Buchi in Benin

Reggae Gospel maestro, Buchi gave a stellar performance in the recent Inner-City Mission concert in Benin, Nigeria.
The concert that was organized to raise money for indigent children in underprivileged urban areas, primarily in Africa– was a total hit. Buchi’s surprise appearance drew massive crowds, virtually emptying the streets of Benin.

The music reverberated throughout the city walls, uplifting the massive crowds with those awesome signature-Buchi reggae beats, booming bass lines and rhythmic ‘Rasta’ riffs.

Buchi has been crowned as Africa’s voice of gospel reggae. For decades, the reggae gospel artist has been captivating fans with unforgettable performances. His recent Abuja concert emptied streets, making it “one of the most popular gospel crossover concerts in Nigerian history.” Buchi has released five audio albums and two video albums: These Days So Beautiful, What a life, The Sound of Life, and Over the years.

Buchi was born in Kaduna in 1963 and has lived most of his life in the lively city of Lagos.
Buchi, who is also the Inner City Mission Goodwill Ambassador planned this special event with his fellow Christ Embassy members of Benin, Zone 1 in order to raise awareness about “the plight of the indigent”, as well as raise funds to support the InnerCity Mission in reaching vulnerable children around the world.
The concert ended up raising thousands of dollars.

The Buchi concert continued into the night
The Buchi concert continued into the night

Families in the Benin community who attended the show were seen shedding tears from the sheer emotional and inspirational atmosphere that was saturated with Christ’s spirit. The attendants were also incredibly grateful for the initiative that was created to raise money for them and their families.
This is not the first concert of this nature to bring joy on such a massive scale. Pastor Chris, the president of both Christ Embassy and the NGO -Inner City Mission has been responsible for countless efforts to raise money for the neglected and disadvantaged. Pastor Chris also frequently has his hand in the music scene and has single-handedly fostered a global gospel empire filled with the world’s top artists known as the Loveworld Music Ministry.