SINGING THE GOSPEL

Brandie Sutton, soprano, performs at the St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush.
Carlos Prescod

A popular church in the heart of the Caribbean community in Flatbush, Brooklyn on Nov. 10 hosted a highly-acclaimed “Afternoon of Spirituals, Gospel and Music of the Black Church Experience.”

According to the Panamanian-born producer and director Carlos D. Prescod, the Organ Restoration Committee of St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush presented its third concert to raise funds for the restoration of the church’s pipe organ.

The event featured internationally-acclaimed artists Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano; Marvin Lowe, bass-baritone; Brandie Sutton, soprano; and Michael Booker, pianist.

“This concert maintained the usual high standard of previous concerts of presenting artists of international acclaim who have performed in the opera and concert stages of the world,” Prescod, who traces his roots to Jamaica and Barbados, told Caribbean Life.

“The selections evoked the spiritual awareness of the audience and brought much emotion because the selections were delivered with great musicianship, much feeling and clear diction,” added Prescod, who also serves at the church’s organist. “The audience was moved to tears on many occasions and spiritually uplifted due to the renditions of the artists.”

He said each artist participated in solos, duets and ensembles — “always singing from the depths of their souls and giving outstanding performances.”

“The accompanist was remarkable,” Prescod said. “He played with a sensitiveness of the artists and provided the required support of the music. He was charismatic, dramatic and totally in control.

“The audience enjoyed keeping an eye on him, because he played with great passion,” he added. “Likewise, the artists were most engaging in their performances. The concert again drew a large enthusiastic and receptive audience.”

Lowe sang “I want Jesus to Walk with Me,” “I’m Gonna Tell God All My Trouble,” “Deep River,” “It is well with My Soul” and “Amazing Grace.”

Bradford rendered “Lord, How Come Me Here,” “Soon Ah Will be Done,” and “Great is thy faithfulness.”

Sutton offered “Over my Head,” “Come Thou Fount” and “Love divine all loves excelling.”

Sutton also collaborated with Bradford on “Fairest Lord Jesus,” and Sutton and Lowe partnered on “Even Me.”

In addition, all three artists joined the congregation in singing “Blessed Assurance,” “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired,” “You’d Better Mind” and “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Besides accompanying the artists, Booker was in his element with “Total Praise.”

“The concert was followed by a sumptuous reception in the auditorium, affording the audience an opportunity for fellowship and conversation,” Prescod said.

He said the first concert was held in June, dubbed “An Afternoon of Jazz and African and Afrocentric Fashions.”

The second concert in September was billed “An Afternoon of Great Music,” featuring international artists of “great acclaim,” Prescod said.

He said the committee is planning to present Morgan State University (MSU) Choir in 2020.

“This plans to be a major event, as the MSU Choir is known nationally and internationally as one of America’s great college choirs,” Prescod said, stating that the choir has performed at the White House and the Vatican, as well as in South Africa, Australia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and throughout the United States.

“St. Paul’s is a place to come to for great music in an impressive space, with great acoustics,” Prescod boasted. “It is something to be experienced.”

About the Artists

Bradford has performed several operatic roles, including Carmen in Bizet’s La Tragedie de Carmen; Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi; La Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica; The Mother in Ravel’s L’Enfant des Sortileges; Mercedes in Bizet’s Carmen; Mrs. Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaf; the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas; Gertrude in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet; and Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Her concert works include Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore;, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass; De Falla’s El Amor Brujo; William Grant Still’s And they lynched him; and Mozart’s Requiem.

Bradford has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kimmel Center and Merkin Hall.

Her performances have taken her to Russia, Budapest, Spain, the Caribbean and throughout the United States.

Lowe has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

His classical credits include soloist in performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and others.

He has been heard nationally and internationally in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; and Opera Ebony’s productions of Oh Freedom, Sojourner Truth and An Opera Gala with Leona Mitchell.

Lowe has appeared with Trilogy Opera Company as Ned and Luddud in Treemonisha.

He has performed with New York City Opera as Inmate in Dead Man Walking and appeared with Lagin Company’s national tour of Riverdance the Show, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ production of Smokey Joeys Café, and performed in the national tour of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.

Film and television credits include Live from Lincoln Center, New York City Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess, PBS Great Performances of Aida’s Brothers and Sisters and the film Boomerang production of Eddie Murphy, and Malcolm X directed by Spike Lee.

Sutton is enjoying a successful career in a wide range of repertoire, from opera and concert, to crossover, including spirituals and jazz.

Her recent debut with New York City Opera received critical acclaim. The New York Times has declared that Sutton brought “a radiant, agile voice and tender expressive touches to Rautendelein, a ravishing performance.”

Sutton has appeared with the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center; the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Mexico); Hamburg State Opera; Grand Theatre de Geneve; the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.)’ Royal Danish Orchestra; and the opera companies of Frankfurt and Dresden.

Sutton has also toured and appeared as soloist with the internationally-acclaimed American Spiritual Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Everett McCorvey, and with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, under the baton of Darmien Sneed.

In the 2019-20 season, Sutton appears with Opera Maine, Richmond Symphony, Birmingham Opera and Oregon Symphony.

She returns to the Seattle Opera to sing Musetta in La Boheme following her very successful debut there last season as Clara in Porgy and Bess.

Sutton also re-joins the roster of the Metropolitan Opera.

A pianist of great diversity, Booker has studied classical, jazz and many Afro-Latin styles.

He utilizes his vast understanding of music in many ways. As a solo pianist, Booker has performed at numerous festivals and competitions throughout the United States and abroad.

As an accompanist, he has accompanied Melba Moore, Desmond Wilson, Bob Reynolds, Garland Waller, Clifton Davis, Isaac Hayes, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, and countless others.

In addition to his credits as a solo artist and accompanist, Booker arranges and composes for several genres of music, including the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Boys’ Choir of Tallahassee, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and the Southeastern African American Choral Festival.

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