Photos (except where noted) By: Keith Crosby
Prominent gospel great Dr. Bobby Jones held his New Artist Showcase at Second Ebenezer Baptist Church, pastored by the Rev. Edgar Vann, in Detroit, the evening of Tuesday, July 27. It was an event that proved to be not only a contest, but an exhibition that displayed the wonderful gifts of Detroit’s own men, women, and young people. Pastor Claude O. Cline and minister of music Pastor Lydia of New Community put on a tremendous program of powerful and anointed gospel music and ministry.
The Showcase contestants would perform to a packed house that night. An overflow section was created in another area of Second Ebenezer for those that couldn’t fit in the main sanctuary. The main area was unable to seat all those that attended the event even after chairs had been set out, the balcony had been filled to capacity and space became a memory.
Deborah Smith-Pollard from FM 98 WJLB and J. Sanford from AM 1340 WMUZ served as MCs for the program alongside Dr. Bobby Jones. Gospel recording artists Dorinda Clark-Cole, J. Moss, Lexi, Shirley Murdock, and Darius Twyman served as the panel of judges.
It was evident from the start that in addition to his musical gifts, Bobby Jones is a comedian. He kicked off the program with a string of jokes and roasts that kept the audience in an uproar of laughter. My personal favorite joke of the evening was when Dr. Jones commented on Dorinda Clark-Cole’s new short haircut, and reassured the audience that the hair she cut off would be “back on tomorrow.” The humility, humor, and anointing of Dr. Jones set the atmosphere for the evening so much so until it was decided that all of the contestants were invited to perform on one of Bobby Jones television programs, a privilege that had at first been reserved only for the first place winner.
The program was so jam-packed full of extraordinary gospel talent and ministry that I hadn’t realized it when two hours had passed. The Showcase featured performances by almost 30 solo artists and groups. Knowing how many artists there would be at the start was intimidating, but I sat and was blessed by the gifts and vitality of each artist. The most remarkable quality of the event was the variety of talents exhibited by the artists. Good gospel singing was the predominant element of the night, but poetry, mime, dance, and ventriloquism also had a place in the Showcase as well as a genre I can definitely appreciate: holy hip hop.
In the end, four artists emerged as the winners of the program, although it was established that all were already winners. Pint-sized powerhouse Alex Hill took top honors as the winner of the youth division of the contest. Poet Angel Rivers placed third in the general division with the churchy Emma Fair coming in second. Tied for first place were gospel rapper Brandon Perry “The Psalmist”, and Rosa Warner. With her rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”, Warner threw the audience for a spin that I still haven’t recovered from as she started off her song with a powerful, sophisticated, opera-style falsetto, and flipped the script to the roof shattering, church vocals we all love.
The event ended with a closing number of “Awesome God” led by Pastor Lydia. Darius Twyman, J. Moss, Shirley Murdock, Lexi, and Dorinda Clark-Cole lent their powerful ad-libs to the song, and made it a wonderful close to a wonderful evening.
I sat down with guest MC J. Sanford for a few minutes and asked him about his thoughts about the event.
Conway: How did you like the Bobby Jones New Artist Showcase?
J. Sanford: It was an awesome program. Every act on the program was phenomenal. I have to give it to everyone that participated. The talent in Detroit is phenomenal. I see new artists coming up that are going to be dangerous. I mean that in a good sense as far as the kingdom of God. It’s a new sound going on.
Conway: There were singers of all types of styles, but then there was a ventriloquist, and there was a poet, who was also one of the winners, and you had gospel rap, et cetera. How did you like that sense of diversity in the program?
J. Sanford: The diversity is what I really like simply because when you’re at a program, you get tired of the same thing. So when you have a variety of something, and as the old saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” I loved everyone, and I just want to encourage everyone to continue on and keep doing your thing. Stay in the will of God, acknowledge Him, and give Him all the praise, glory, and honor. You’ll go very far. STAY HUMBLE!!!
Dr. Bobby Jones – ” I thought the Showcase tonight was absolutely astounding. It left me breathless. It left me laying prostrate before the Lord (laughs). It was tremendous.”
Dorinda Clark-Cole – “We had an awesome time on tonight and wonderful talent all from Detroit – Detroit just got it goin’ on like that, and congratulations to the winners.”
Pastor Claude O. Cline, New Community – “We just thank God for the gifts in this body and that we can create opportunities to unearth the gifts that God has given us.”
Pastor Lydia, Minister of Music, New Community Baptist Church – “God is so awesome and everyone of the contestants was so fabulous and anointed – this was a blessed event”
<a ” name=”Photo”>Photo Courtesy of: Albert Rodgers (Breakin’ Bread Media Specialist) – Keith Crosby, Brandon Perry “The Psalmist” & Carl B. Phillips
1st Place Winner #1-Brandon Perry “The Psalmist” – “It’s just great. It’s pretty much just God answering my prayer and letting me know I’m on the right road to where I’m supposed to be. It’s wonderful.”
1st Place Winner #2- Rosa Warner – “The feeling tonight is overwhelming. It’s very humbling and I’m just going to keep praying and doing what I do.