REVIEW: Led by CeCe Winans, Boston Pops Gospel Night rings in a joyous 25 years

Over the past 25 years, Boston Pops Gospel Night has stood the test of time as a glorious and revered annual tradition.  An illuminated brass backdrop, shining music notes, and a floating, celluloid film strip adorned the Symphony Hall stage while an enthusiastic crowd filed in for this highly-anticipated, one night only, 25th anniversary event.

Each year, Gospel Night features a special blend of acclaimed musical guests, a variety of beloved and new songs from the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, and memorable performances.  With multiple Grammy Award-winning singer CeCe Winans, a resounding, patriotic, monumental speech about freedom and peace, and rousing performances from the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, the Boston Pops Gospel Night has certainly outdone itself.  It’s an annual concert with toe tapping reverence and a spirited finale that always brings the audience to its feet.  Click here for more information on the Boston Pops, upcoming events, and more.

Warmly greeting the crowd and the orchestra was accomplished conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd, who has been conducting Gospel Night for the past 23 years.  Click here for a closer look at Charles Floyd and his career.  Distinguished looking in a white tuxedo with black pants and a bow tie, Charles Floyd gave an appreciative wave before opening the 25th anniversary concert with Aaron Copland’s spirited Fanfare for the Common Man, as horns blared distinct and clear.  It was a mix of tender, powerful, and upbeat melodies that included Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor and Chadwick’s Jubilee, which culminated into a vigorous finish and wondrous applause.

Gospel Night also recognized what would have been the recent 100th birthday of the late President John F. Kennedy by paying tribute to him and also honoring award-winning conductor, John Williams, who was the subject of this year’s Boston Pops season.  Young and naturally charismatic Reverend Thomas Crowley who is Senior Pastor of Myrtle Baptist Church, passionately delivered JFK’s famous inaugural address, “Let the Word Go Forth,” a stirring and thrilling speech which remains especially prevalent today.  The audience was captivated as the Reverend spoke of freedom, peace, ambition, and achieving the American ideal of brotherhood as musical excerpts of John Williams film score, JFK and Celebration 2000: Journey of John Williams rose underneath.

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Legendary, Grammy award-winning Gospel singer CeCe Winans Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

 

The excitement for multiple Grammy award-winning singer CeCe Winans was tangible.   Dressed in a black and multi-colored floral gown, Cece Winans took the stage to roaring applause.  CeCe Winans is a flawless soprano whose vocal tone at times is reminiscent of Whitney Houston.  CeCe and Whitney collaborated together for the uplifting song, Count on Me in 1996.  With a joyful warmth and tenderness and as the Boston Pops Gospel Choir swayed and clapped, CeCe performed an array of faith-filled songs from her latest album, Let Them Fall in Love such as Run to Him, Dancing in the Spirit, Peace from God, Never Have to Be Alone, and the title track.  “Welcome to church,” CeCe exclaimed as she gracefully took the stage.  Many of her songs spoke about finding hope in despair, forgiveness, and in the state of the world today, how much we are in need prayer.  She concluded with a beautiful cover of Fanny Crosby’s hymn, Blessed Assurance, bringing the crowd to their feet.

Featuring a number impassioned performances from talented soloists, Charles Floyd continued to lead the Boston Pops Gospel Choir.  Soloist Suzanne Buell and Raymond Martin opened with upbeat, jubilant renditions of Celebrate followed by Carolyn Saxon and David Grandy singing King of Kings.  A particular highlight was Katani Sumner’s powerful, expressive, and bluesy rendition of When Sunday Comes.  Katani’s smooth version of the song hinted of Ella Fitzgerald in its delivery.

Each year, Gospel Night offers a grand, spirit-fueled finale.  Led by The Boston Pops Gospel Choir Artistic Director Dennis L. Slaughter, it is a party that could go all night long, if only they could.  One of the biggest highlights of the evening came from soloist Renese King, who sang a tambourine-infused, rollicking rendition of the classic Gospel hymn, Oh Happy Day.  Oh, Happy 25th Anniversary indeed.

Jessica Lang Dance, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, Alvin Ailey, and Stave Sessions part of Celebrity Series of Boston’s extraordinary season

With close to an 80-year history of bringing inspirational and highly acclaimed national and international live entertainment to Boston, Celebrity Series sets the stage in 2017 with an extraordinary lineup that includes Broadway star and actress Kristin Chenoweth, the return of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the annual Stave Sessions, and much more.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

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Alvin Ailey’s “Odetta” Photo courtesy of Mike Strong

Making its spectacular Boston debut, Celebrity Series of Boston presents Jessica Lang Dance from Friday, January 27 to Saturday, January 28 at the Bach Center Shubert Theatre.  Winner of the 2014 Bessie Award, NY-based dance troupe, Jessica Lang Dance, based on Jessica Lang’s award-winning choreography, weaves classical ballet with stunning, contemporary artistry.

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Jessica Lang Dance “Spectrum” Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

After a sold out 2013 recital, the Danish String Quartet returns to NEC’s Jordan Hall for an unforgettable evening of innovative, powerful music featuring works by Beethoven and Schnittke.  The Danish Quartet performs for one night only on Saturday, January 28 at 8 p.m.  Single tickets are available.

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Danish String Quartet Photo of Caroline Bittencourt

On Saturday, February 4, award-winning soprano Susanna Phillips will make her Celebrity Series of Boston solo debut at NEC’s Jordan Hall at 8 p.m.  Accompanied by pianist Myra Huang, Phillips is a captivating singing-actor and recitalist.

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Award-winning soloist Susanna Phillips Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

Celebrating the works of legendary jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald for her 100th birthday, jazz violinist Regina Carter performs Simply Ella on Friday, February 10 at the Sanders Theatre.  Carter’s album, Simply Ella is coming soon.

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Jazz violinist Regina Carter pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald Photo courtesy of David Katzenstein

Click here for the full list of performances and for tickets. Subscriptions and gift cards are also available.  Celebrity Series of Boston thrives on support from the community. Click here for a variety of ways to support Celebrity Series of Boston.