Joyful Noise at Caffe Lena Lifts Spirits, Fills Bellies, and Joins Community

Caffe Lena‘s monthly Gospel Brunch raised a “Joyful Noise” in its celebration of service to others on Sunday, September 29th.

Drawing an audience of those dressed in their Sunday best, and also those dressed in baseball caps and T shirts, Gospel Brunch’s musician Garland Nelson directed listeners to listen, clap, sing and dance along with pop and spiritual songs focusing on building love and service to others.

The food, catered by Hattie’s, included fried chicken, fresh fruit, a biscuit and gravy.

Opening with young Jayda Chance on piano, whose gorgeous voice lifted listeners to repeatedly sing, “I give myself away, You can use me,” the musician filled the listening room with a strong echo from the audience. It set the tone for participation.

Directly after, the musicians launched into a spirited rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and was joined by audience members clapping and singing along.

The musicians adapted pop music to spiritual ends. Singer Roosevelt replicated Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” with velvety smooth tones. Annette Harris blew us away with a spirited “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

From Georgia Jones’ cover of Joan Baez’s “What if God Was One of Us,” to Harris and Chris Dollard’s rendition of Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli’s “The Prayer,” the musicians moved through multipart harmonies and rhythms meant to lift listeners’ spirits and join hands and hearts.

Nelson’s stories kept the “service” moving, including an honest tribute to his father after sharing his own experience of loss. He spoke about his father having real struggles, and also finding grace before singing an emotional “Amazing Grace.” His paternal uncle and aunt were also at Caffe Lena, bringing a special touch to the performance.

Azaam Hameed’s keyboard was the backdrop to many of the songs, as well as some guitar and enthusiastic tambourine.

Chance’s “The Battle is Not Yours” demonstrated depth of emotion beyond her years. Perhaps the only betrayal of her youth was the possibly anxious rushing, but it was overcome by her spot-on pitch and musicianship. And the theme that you are loved regardless of what you do, came through.

The Gospel Brunch message was overt: if you want to feel happy, give yourself to others. Service to others can heal even the darkest depression.

Closing with James Taylor’s “Shower the People” sung as a sing-along, with the audience holding hands around the room, this Gospel Brunch lifted spirits and connected people through joyful noise.

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