Tonight at 5 PM Chicago’s Gorham United Methodist Church choir will do an encore of last year’s gospel concert. The church is at the corner of Crystal Lake and Dole Avenues, both of which intersect Route 14 at traffic lights.
This is something McHenry County residents don’t have an opportunity to see very often. You can tell I enjoyed it from the story I wrote last year, which appears below.
Having no experience at reviewing a musical performance, I hardly know how to explain what I experienced Saturday night.
Chicago’s Gorham United Methodist Church choir came by bus to sing gospel music at the February 17th 5 P.M. service of the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake.
The connection was made when Gorham’s minister Darneather Murph-Heath became Crystal Lake’s associate pastor.
The excuse was Black History Month, but this choir, started in 1976, could take up residence in Crystal Lake and I would be a regular attendee.
The energy and enthusiasm of the singing and clapping was contagious, not to mention sacred.
Against a backdrop of its choir directress Brenda Thomas’ absence because of her mother’s medical condition, the service was interspersed with heartfelt prayers for her recovery.
Musical director and pianist Dwayne Grant, who is studying for the ministry, was brought to tears during his heartfelt plea for healing.
He explained how a Caucasian member named Mark Burnell, a musician for Gorham, had been in the hospital. The choir had visited him, praying for his coming out of his coma and singing to him. On Monday he awoke.
Grant told the congregation that he originally wanted to be a rock musician and even helped record a top-ten record, but now dedicated his talents to the Lord.
Maybe it’s because I am a guy, but I remember three solos by men in the choir.
Not what they sang, mind you, just that their voices were different.
The first was a man with a middle range voice.
What’s it called?
Whatever it is called, Wiley Saunders was powerful.
Next was a young tenor (if I get this wrong, it’s because I know next to nothing about music) named Casey Lang.
As you can see in this picture to the right, I was fascinated by the way he handled the microphone.
James Lewis, the oldest man in the choir sang a bass solo.
The rendition was simply stunning, especially the low note he hit at the end of his song.
Now, I’m not saying the female soloists were not outstanding. Lillian Johnson (below left) was first, followed by Juanita Taylor (seen at the right).
Dancers from the Willie Hubbard Anointed Angels performed their worship twice.
They included Pastor Heath’s daughters Tamara Heath and Tenesha Barner, her granddaughter Mekaela Barner (in the second dance) and Ashley Chism (see below for her picture).
“Energetic” does not begin to describe the complicated choreography.
There is no doubt the Holy Spirit was present.
And those white folks in the Crystal Lake congregation.
A good number were actually standing up and clapping.
Both Ronnie Verboom, our previous associate pastor, and Pastor Heath have chaffed at the very limited physical participation of Methodists in Crystal Lake.
I have trouble getting into such activity, so I was glad I had the excuse of taking pictures during the service.
Look at this one of the choir director saluting his drummer, Terrance Chism.
No one would deny that the atmosphere was invigorating.
The 5 P.M. service usually concludes at 6.
We got home at 7 with no feeling that we had been at church too long.
It was probably the longest service I have attended in Crystal Lake and not for a minute was I anxious to leave.
= = = = =
All the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
In the choir, which can be seen in the top photograph, are from left to right on the
Athena Jackson, Lillian Johnson, Esther Britt, Dorothy Drummond, Stepahanie Edwards, Juanita Taylor and Yalonda King.
On the top row are
Lazette Saunders, Kenneth Edwards, James Lewis, Darryl Harris, Wiley Saunders, Casey Lang, Tameria Harrison and Linda Grant.
In front directing the choir in place of choir director Brenda Thomas is Jessica Holland. You can also see the back of Pastor Heath.
Next those attending the service can be seen. The Gorham gospel choir must be like the Christian singers the church brings in. It certainly had a following that came for the concert.
Gotham’s musical director and pianist Dwayne Grant is seen wiping a tear from his eye after his prayer for the recover of the the choir director’s father.
Wiley Saunders, the alto, is seen next, on the left, followed by tenor Casey Lang on the right and bass James Lewis down the page slighly to the left.
The female singer to right of Lewis and under Lang is Juanita Taylor.
Below left is Lilian Johnson.
The dancers shown are Tamara Heath, Tenesha Barner and Mekaela Barner.The dancer not pictured within the story above, but who can be seen below the line above these photo identifies is Ashley Chism. Also below the line are pictures of Chism and Tamara Heath danceing. Next is a close-up of the youngest dancer, Mekaela Barner.
Music director Dwayne Grant wasn’t close enough to his drummer Terrance Chism to give him a high five as the program was ending, but we all got the message of appreciation in the bottom picture above the line. Seen behind Grant is Crystal Lake’s Director of Contemporary Music Jayson Hemphill. He sang a song, as well as playing his piano.
The bottom picture below the line is of Pastor Heath, whom we have to thank for bringing her former church’s choir to Crystal Lake. Pastor Heath is the grandmother of Mekaela Barner.