I was honored to be a judge last night at the First Men's Gospel Choir Fest in the Liberty Theatre.
Robert Anderson and John "Brad" Bradford came up with the idea.
Ten choirs entered the festival, including Greater Shady Grove MBC, Holsey Chapel CME, New Providence MBC, South Columbus UMC, Friendship Baptist Church, Faith Tabernacle Community, St. James AME Church and Body of Christ Church International in Columbus, and Bethlehem Baptist Church and Gaines Chapel in Phenix City. For one reason or another, four of the choirs didn't appear.
The remaining six were fantastic.
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It's really hard to be a judge in something like this.
The other two judges were Fred Fussell and Clifford Rutledge. Fred is an expert in local folk music and Cliff has been a radio disc jockey for many years. All I know about music is putting a CD in a CD player.
We had to judge the choirs in five categories -- singing ability, harmonization, stage presence, appearance and timing. The choirs had to sing two songs, one a cappella and the other with instrumentation. Most used drums and piano, though a couple brought guitarists.
To enter, you know that they had to be able to sing. So I gave them either 9 or 10. The rest are pretty self explanatory. The timing was they had to sing the two songs in 10 minutes.
We had to whittle it down to two choirs. The two choirs with the highest scores were Friendship Baptist and South Columbus UMC.
Both were fantastic, but I had to give the edge to South Columbus because of its stage presence.
I told Fred that a choir director with a stage background can't be beat. Julian Leake is the choir director for South Columbus. He's been on the Liberty stage many times and has also appeared at the Springer Opera House.
Next up? Competitions for women's and youth choirs.
The theater was packed because it sold out last week. There were 100 people standing outside, hoping for tickets.
And Robert said 10 choirs asked why they weren't asked. He did ask a lot of choirs and these choirs responded.
I'll be the next time Robert asks churches to send their choirs, they will.
It was a wonderful evening of music. You should have been there.