Unification News for December 2002

NY Musical Celebration "God’s Trombones"

by Rev. Leslie deJonge

Spiritually rousing and vibrant! Spectacular! Broadway-type performance! These were some of the excited comments gleaned after the performance of an excerpted presentation of "God’s Trombones" – the original work of the well-known Afro-American, James Weldon Johnson – presented in five relatively quick scenes on Sunday November 24th in the Manhattan Family Church Chapel.

This production was the brainchild of director Robert E. Hall, Jr. Encouraged by a smaller, but successful production in the Spring of 1999, he set out boldly with the main cast of preachers, singers and musicians to make this presentation within a limited time frame. It is the goal of the Music Ministry to perform this and other programs with brothers and sisters of other boroughs and especially with ministers and members of their choirs etc. in their churches and places of worship. This is the time for us to be one.

After a brief welcome and remarks by the Director, Mr. John Magoola set the tone singing an African song of Praise accompanied by rich background vocals. Mr. Masahiko Harigae on the baby grand piano tuned in the Christian spiritual world with the playing of "Amazing Grace." A motley cast of singers and players assembled onstage bedecked in hats, dresses, gloves, vests etc. reminiscent of the early 20th century Afro-American Society, greeting each other with exaggerated gestures. They were rooted to the spot by the dramatic arrival of the "Hat Lady" –who wore a "Strange hat of Bells." This caused such a commotion onstage that a member fainted (on cue). Order was restored and the play continued.

Director, Robert E. Hall, Jr. had introduced "Gimme dat ole time religion" as a longing for the original way and ideals of God. This first song was sung joyously and was a great beginning. Davetta Johnson, Ed Poor and Erma Bovell soloed the introductory bars.

Mrs. Nicky Nseka followed with an exhortive "Prayer." She fired up the congregation and audience members alike with her preaching style. "The Lord’s Prayer" was sung midway through the presentation followed by Barbara Burrowes van-Praag’s original composition – "Thine is the Kingdom." Traditional spiritual "In dat great gittin’ up morning" ended the first segment.

Amid the "sounds of space", Rev. Desmond Green recited "The Creation"- a very imaginative and metaphoric expression of the six days of creation. "Motherless Chile", sung by Gerald Smith, Davetta Johnson and Robert E. Hall, Jr. expressed the loneliness of God’s heart. A plaintive short clarinet solo by Arry Constant accompanied by Ed Poor on the piano set the mood for this section of "Creation". Rev. Juanita Pierre-Louis of Harlem ended this segment with the a rousing version of the traditional spiritual "This little light of mine." She then proceeded to the third segment – a dramatic reading and dramatic presentation of "The Prodigal Son"

Second generation twins, John and James Gomis, played the parts of the two sons and Rev. Andrew Compton - the father. The dramatization in this scene had the audience in fits of laughter. The actors/actresses threw themselves into the Babylonian scene and roars of laughter began when the younger son entered the city of Babylon and met up with the gamblers and "the women of Babylon" and the resultant eating with the hogs. After he "came to his senses" we heard the soothing, pleading rendition of "Is there room for a sinner" by the Westchester Family Church Choir and Dr. Rumiko Isaksen/Director. Rev. Juanita Pierre-Louis used her natural southern preaching style to get the audience completely involved in "The Prodigal Son." Closing this scene was Rev. Rufus Dunn of the Garden of Prayer Cathedral with a power-charged "I’ve learned to live Holy."

In the following scene, Ms. Davetta Morgan gave a painstaking, spirit-filled presentation as the preacher in "Go Down, Death." The sermon was preceded by beautiful rendition of the well-loved and well-known spiritual "Steal Away" – four-part harmony and free style. The mood was definitely set for the sermon. Rev. Theodosia L. Stevens of the Spiritual Mission of St. Paul – a trained singer – sang one of the solo verses and Mrs. Kyoko Tachinaka of the Westchester Choir sang the last phrase, which represents the soul returning to God. Rev. Theodosia returned halfway through the sermon to sing another spiritual "Fix me, Jesus". This song of faith touched the hearts and souls of everyone who heard it. Her inspiring rendition truly "fixed" the audience with the depth of her presentation. This scene closed with the "Steal Away Chant" a composition of Robert E. Hall, Jr. Obviously an influence from his Afro roots, it is a very "catchy" tune, and is a celebration of the life of "Sister Caroline."

The final scene saw the tiresome trials of "Ole man Noah" portrayed by elocutionist, Rev. Leslie DeJonge as the preacher done in contemporary style of drama and voice.

The "curtains" came down on the show full circle with a final song – "Gimme dat ole Time Religion."

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