I can still feel the song There Is A River by the Belcanto Quartet flowing through my soul, maintaining that spiritual high which, from their reaction on the night, must have also been experienced by the thousands who attended last Saturday’s Courts Ultimate Gospel concert at the mecca of cricket, Kensington Oval.
And if you are wondering why I chose the Belcanto Quartet to highlight, it is because the quality of their harmonies, their velvet melodies and the engaging manner in which these four young men wrapped the entire sound into an appealing vocal package, is nothing short of surreal.
From the time this group struck the first few notes of There Is A River, ooos and aahs and wows and cheers spontaneously rippled across the packed 3Ws Stand and the grounds in front of the stands.
Those who unfortunately missed the performance during the penultimate event of the 2016 Barbados Gospelfest calendar, may think I am exaggerating but ask anybody you know who attended. I mean, sometimes when people say words cannot aptly describe a happening, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t find the words but, like on this occasion, one does not think the words could truly do justice.
Lest I be accused of being melodramatic or over reacting, let me finally say – on the Belcanto Quartet – that once you hear this group, you would want to hear them all the time, especially if you crave music to warm your heart, soul and mind.
However, while I have a justified soft spot for this group’s musical ministry, don’t think that the other artistes who performed did not deliver the goods. In fact, every single one who took to the stage last Saturday night and ministered in song or dance, produced top draw material which gave credence to the event’s title of Ultimate Gospel.
Twenty-one-year-old Kianne Browne opened the musical segment with a bang, rendering a powerful version of We Shall Behold Him that set the bar very high for what was to follow.
We have already assessed the Belcanto Quartet which came afterwards. Then came a show-stopper – eight-year-old Miss Confidence [my words] Kianna Flavious, a student of the Hindsbury Primary School. From the time she walked onto that massive stage, she got everybody’s undivided attention as she loudly and confidently exclaimed, like a seasoned professional, “Good night. I can’t hear you!”
Those words alone and the positive attitude coming from a petite child, who was swallowed up by the size of the stage, was a defining moment at the concert. The screams, laughter, cheers, all fused to create an atmosphere of excitement and appreciation. But if that was not enough excitement, this little dynamite, having by now thrown the audience into a frenzy as she belted out He’ll Do It Again, missed her cue while transitioning at the break in the song.
“Start from the beginning,” she demanded, as she turned towards the sound engineer behind her. The audience again went wild.
Never showing any signs of nerves or being flustered, this primary school pupil resumed the song like a true professional, her confidence still high, and finished the song beautifully to a standing ovation. Those who know Allison Norville-Forde would understand that she is the ultimate gospel singer. So needless to say, when she followed, the top quality and standard continued too. Capitalizing on the beauty and incredible range of her voice, Norville-Forde simply demonstrated a lesson in singing as she mixed gospel and classical styles to produce masterpieces of I Never Lost My Praise, Love In Any Language and Christian Home [a prayer for the nation].
Coming in from the Bahamas was Aleithia Sweeting, whose hit song Let Praises Rise took the Oval by storm as scarcely anyone remained in their seats. She also wooed the large gathering with a new song I Want To Follow along with Oh How He Loves Us So. She has a beautiful presence and voice.
Another overseas act – The Revival Time Tabernacle Men’s Choir from Toronto, Canada – did their thing in Caribbean style and fashion.
The place was rocking with reggae and soca as these not-so-young men, and a few youngsters, rapped and danced and had the whole place dancing along to God’s Not Dead, You’re My Brother, You’re My Sister and I Am Praying Down Here By The River.
Before the concert closed with the headline act, Sinach from the US, the Barbados Gospelfest Mass Choir rendered a medley of songs by the late icon Joseph Niles, with Mark Harewood on lead vocals.
Niles’ widow, Beverley, was in the audience and she could be seen singing along and evidently enjoying the moment and memories.
Then it was the moment many were waiting for. Sinach, whose songs Great Are You Lord and We Are A Chosen Generation have overtaken Barbados, did not disappoint. Before she was quarter way into her set, patrons had come from their seats and filled the front of the stage dancing, waving and singing along to Sinach’s music. She was wonderful and it was truly a night of Ultimate Gospel at Kensington Oval last Saturday.