THE BEST OF YOUR SERVICE: Spearheaded by local gospel musician and recording artist Phillip Carter, the DMV Singers’ and Musicians’ Banquet honored some of the area’s finest music leaders for their exemplary service.
by Patrick D. McCoy
-When in our music God is glorified. And adoration leaves no room for pride. It is as though the whole creation cried: ALLELUIA!
The first verse of this hymn text by Fred Pratt Green and set to music by British composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford truly captures the sentiment of the tribute event held on Monday night at Kettering Baptist Church. Honoring a wide spectrum of local artists in the Washington metro area for their excellence in the church music arena, it was also a recognizing of their talent and contributions outside of the church.
Though the focus was primarily on music ministry in their respective faith communities, each has had the opportunity to share their ministry in greater arenas, without losing sight of their calling. The event was like a big reunion of old friends and musicians, a gathering which was planned intentionally to celebrate the gifts of fellow laborers in the vineyard. To paraphrase organizer Phillip Carter’s opening remarks, the event was created partly because the only time that musicians were getting together to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a fellow colleague was at their funeral. That point hit closer to home when a friend and colleague Tanya Rowe passed.
Monday night’s event was truly a celebration of those living right now sharing their gifts. Even though she was not on the slate of honoree’s, Carter gave a nod to the presence of the legendary Mother Shirley Berkeley, (approaching her 90th birthday) who has been credited with touching the lives of so many of the musicians present. The 2019 honorees for the evening were Gerry Gillespie, Jimmy Russell, Nevilla Ottley, Brandon Maclin, Tynette Daniels, William Hubbard, Everett P. Williams, Jr., Ronnette Harrison, Christopher Suggs and Rickey Payton. A special touch to the evening was having Joyce Garrett as guest host. No stranger to the Washington area, her contributions as an outstanding music teacher and minister of music are well documented through the institutions that she has served.
There was such diversity in the roster of awardees and a few of the stories resonated with this writer. Ronnette Harrison, who in addition to her music ministry was a music teacher in the Prince George’s County Public Schools. She shared how she stepped out on faith and made the decision to pursue her career as a full-time musician. That is a story that resonates with many who are pursuing a career in the performing arts. Everett P. Williams, Jr. reminisced on the stern words of his piano teacher and how he would see them years later as a lesson in humility. Percussionist Brandon Maclin’s musical trajectory as a young child began as he would roll up pieces of paper and mimicked playing the drums. Reflecting back on what was seen as perhaps an annoyance by his sister Krystle Pressley now has blossomed into a gift from God, which she lovingly celebrated in her introduction for him to receive his award. As a music historian, Nevilla Ottley broached a topic many don’t acknowledge: the presence of prominent black composers of classical music. Her affirmation of the vastness of black musical talent was timely and spoke further to the musical diversity of the slate of honorees.
There were so many moving moments, but when the legendary composer and pianist William Hubbard was recognized there was a euphoric applause that fell over the room. His classic song “I Love You, Lord Today” is sung by choirs all over the world. Recently suffering a stroke, his sister jokingly quipped that “he can play better with one hand than some musicians play with two.” It was a truly a touching moment in which the ‘family’ gathered around.
The January 2020 Honorees Are:
-Rosalind Lynch, Elder Michael Reid, Chester Abraham, Stephen Key, Bishop Jeremiah Murphy, Valeria Foster, Ronald A. Johnson, Capria McClearn and Mike Scott.
A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including The Washington Post, Early Music America Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, CBS Washington and Examiner.com. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., The American Choral Directors’ Association, a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD. Visit http://www.patrickdmccoy.com