Friday, January 16, 2009

Krieg' ich 'ne Zeuge?

On Thursday evening we took in a performance of Gospel music in Werden. I saw the poster back in November and bought tickets right away. I thought it would be a unique opportunity to see some real Gospel music while in Europe and a group with a name like "The New York Gospel Stars" seemed promising. What I didn't know, was that Gospel is really heiß in Germany right now, and over the course of the next four weeks I saw posters for ten different Gospel groups in ten different venues. All the groups seem to use a combination of "New York, Gospel, and Harlem" in their names. Since the group I had bought tickets for didn't mention Harlem, I was worried I might have thrown in with a second rate Gospel group. They might hail from Gramercy Park, Tribeca... I might be about to attend a concert of the only Gospel singers from Sutton Place, for goodness sake.

Not to worry. The concert was fabulous. The location, a beautiful protestant church in Werden has the acoustics of a roomy bathtub, but the New York Gospel Stars more than made up for that. The Jungenstil painted decoration and Gothic/Romanesque architecture contrasted well with the lighting and driving rhythm section. We had great seats and enjoyed our status as ringers. During a short quiz section, we were the first to shout out, "Rev. James Cleveland!!" or "Mahalia Jackson!" depending on the questions asked.

I particularly enjoyed Kumbaya, a song I performed with the Our Lady of Fatima Boys Choir in the 1960's. We were a small choir, white robes, pointed hoods... when I did my solo part in Kumbaya, I think I must have looked like a particularly wimpy Grand Wizard. The NY Gospel Stars started the number quietly, but it built to an intensity we never managed to achieve at OLF. The audience was probably a little hesitant compared to a congregation of African Americans in Manhattan, but ultimately das Publikum loosened up and sang and clapped as well as any white folks can. It was another evening to remind you that it's great to be an American, and I'd be willing to bet I wasn't the only one thinking that as The New York Gospel Stars came out and did "Oh Happy Day" as their encore. For my money, I think we could replace the entire State Department with a troop of R&B, Blues and Gospel musicians. We'd probably come out ahead. It's a policy I'd like to ask the President-elect about, but I'm afraid he'd say, "No, we can't."

1 comment:

Rebecca H said...

That is the best idea ever. A musical state department would be awesome...