LIVE: The Gospel Jubliee @ Proctors, 04/23/2022

A chance to look up as you’re getting down. 

Logic almost demands that this event be labeled an oxymoron. How can 60-some singers facing a 3000-seat theater full of people create a three-hour event as intimate as a one-on-one between a preacher and one of his parishioners? The Gospel Jubilee has had eight years’ experience tweaking this annual event, and they made that oxymoron happen Saturday night (April 23rd) at Proctor’s Theatre. 

The Gospel Jubilee Mass Choir created the foundation for this event. Under the direction of Reverend Dr. Elgin Joseph Taylor. Sr., pastor of Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, the choir is comprised of singers and musicians from various churches in the Capital Region. They sat, stood and raised their voices and arms in praise of Jesus across four rows of chairs that completely took over the large Proctor’s Theater stage.  

“Holy, holy, holy is The Lord,” proclaimed musical guest Lorraine Stancil-Lawson in a clarion call, her soprano voice hitting notes higher than I thought humanly possible for the highlight of the evening that had the choir standing and providing the wings under her flight into heaven at the close of the first set. A minister in the Pentecostal Church whose been compared to the great Shirley Caesar, she testified, “I’m not supposed to be here tonight.” A year ago, she spent 12 days in the hospital with Covid. She shook free of the devil in that hospital room, and she proclaimed “I promised Jesus, I’m gonna give ’em all I’ve got.” 

If Proctor’s had rafters, she’d have raised them as she soared into a climactic “Now and forever, Holy is the Lord,” the choir near to levitating behind her while the audience raised its collective arms in praise. 

The audience was 95% African American and included mothers holding infants, toddlers, teenagers in sweatpants, men in black suits, and women dressed to the nines. “Call and response” is the term for the way an all-black audience interacts with artists like B. B. King on his iconic “Live at the Regal” album. A fervent gospel crowd is almost connected at the hip with the musicians who’ve been a part of Sunday worship from infancy. This annual show is the largest gospel event in the Capital Region. The give and take back and forth between the attendees and the musicians on stage is unmatched by any of the fervor I’ve seen at iconic rock shows, even The Stones. As a member of the audience, you enter the fourth dimension. You become the centerpiece of the performance, an integral part of the happening.  

Gospel Jubilee founder Sara Hill has learned over nine of these events to pay homage to community church leaders without dragging down the energy of the moment. This particular event paid homage to past trailblazers Dr. Georgetta Dix, Rev. Dr. Minnie L. Burns, Annette De Lavallade, Margaret Cunningham and Artis Kitchen, as well as Wes Holloway, and Reverend Albert J. Holman, to name a few.  

There was a special salute to the late Regina “Gina” Parsons (member of Refreshing Springs Church, Schenectady, NY daughter of the late Paster Elder Eugene W. Dix and Georgetta Dix who founded Refreshing Springs Church of God and Christ in Schenectady) and Antonia “Toni” Brown(member of Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church, Albany, NY active in theater community).  Both women were the Capital District’s legendary voices and members of the Gospel Jubilee Mass Choir.  

“After our generation, there will be no story about what we know of,” says event director Sara Hill. “You understand what I’m saying? And the reason I’m focusing on paying homage to Antonia, Tony Brown and Regina Parsons – I just want you to hear this because both of these women, both of them – not only do they share a musical gift, Don, they were singing and directing music in the church at a young age of phenomenal women, foot soldiers, and trailblazers. These were women who had the same history that Artis Kitchen and Pee Wee Harris have, the cloth of this Capital Region that we’ll never, ever, ever, see again.” 

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