Our Harlem Gospel Experience
After our coach tour with a few stops for photographs it was the bit we had been so looking forward to, entering a church for a gospel experience. On our ticket it said 'no flip flops' my feet were stuffed in my suede fit flop clogs, the first time I had shut my feet in anything for a very long time. It also said no photography - so I had left my camera behind. What a shame as our guide announced "This is a very liberal church and you can take as many pictures as you wish". We had to rely on Bear's Little Chap for the pictures below. Slathering feet and camera-less was in for the time of her life. We would watch as the 'crowd' turned from unsure visitor to emotionally moved, singing and clapping, standing and joyous, happy faced people.
The Harlem Gospel Choir is an American gospel choir based in Harlem, New York. It is one of the United States's most prominent gospel choirs. The group was founded on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, the 15th of January in 1986 by Allen Bailey. It has long been on our bucket list to attend, see, hear and feel a real gospel experience. I wanted lots of noise, ladies fanning themselves with their hymn sheets, shouting “Yes Lord”, everything you see in the sequence in the film ‘The Blues Brothers’ without the trampolining or James Brown. We got it all in spades. A real WOW. The lady on the organ led us by telling us the words to sing, her powerful voice rocked the building. The drummer (Bear said had to be seated in a soundproof box as not to permanently damage himself) was nothing short of Keith Moon at his loudest and best.
All ages made up the congregation, some standing, clapping, sitting, singing. An elderly lady caught a few zeds - as did Big Bear.........
The Harlem Gospel Choir comprises 65 members, ranging in age from 17 to 70. It has toured the world, logging two million travel miles. They have appeared on national television programs such as Good Morning America, Top Chef: New York and The Colbert Report. They have performed for Pope John Paul II, worked and performed with Paul McCartney, The Chieftains, Diana Ross, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, the Dixie Hummingbirds, Jimmy Cliff, Lyle Lovett, Lisa Marie Presley, Bono and U2, André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra, Jessica Simpson and Josh Groban.
The Angels in Harlem Gospel Choir is the older touring arm of the Harlem Gospel Choir. It tours the world every year, and was the first American gospel choir from Harlem to perform in Australia, New Zealand, China, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Morocco. The choir is always looking for new territories to introduce to gospel music. The group comprises 40 singers and musicians but performs on tour with a formant of nine singers and two musicians (keyboards and drums). They have recorded with The Scissor Sisters, Friendly Fires, Gil Scott Heron, Lexie Stobi, and The Chieftains. Five of them were present at our service today.
Anne and Michael got a fit of the giggles when a lady danced with white fans (we would find out why, later), you can just see one of the choir in the turquoise dress behind. Michael had said to Anne “We could have done with her when we passed Atlantic City and all those flies appeared”. We laughed watching their shoulders go up and down. No one else could hear as the volume in that church was not to be dominated by anything. The proceedings were being televised for the community who could not attend.
We were two of the seventy four visitors that day. We were asked whose birthday was in the next week. One lady and I stood up. The choir sang Stevie Wonders ‘Happy Birthday’, what a huge thrill for me and something so unique, I will never forget.
We left as the bishop of many years service; was about to begin his address to the congregation, followed by his sermon. We had been told that this was the ‘polite’ time to leave or we would have to stay for many more hours. Shame, we would have loved to hear this obviously charismatic man with the deep booming voice. As we left everyone in the congregation stopped to bid us farewell "God Bless You" on their lips. Such love and devotion was palpable. Outside those who had welcomed us were there with hugs and kisses.
ALL IN ALL JUST WHAT I DREAMED IT WOULD BE
A VERY HAPPY EXPERIENCE