• By Jubilation Gospel Choir

Temple of joy

version anglaise uniquement

Sunday 12 July 1998

Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir raises the roof.

They were on their feet, swaying and clapping in the second balcony of Salle Wilfrid Pelletier last night.

Close to 3,000 people were taking the Highway to Heaven with the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.

New Album It was the last major concert of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and the choir, directed by the dynamic Trevor Payne, turned that toughest of halls into a rollicking temple of joy.

Sitting behind a Steinway and setting the tone, Payne opened the show by asking, “Ready?”

“Yeah!” came the response from the wings and 40 women and men, wearing off-white gowns and fuchsia scarves, came on stage clapping rhythmically and exploding with the song that is most closely identified with the group, now in its 17th year.

A full house had come to hear the magnificent sound of the full jubilation family, all 40 singers, soloists and backup band.

They began by showcasing material from their latest musical venture into African music. That segment began with the post-apartheid South African anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika, and Come to Jesus in the Luhyia language of Kenya.

The choir sang these songs with pride and confidence, though the feeling of deep passion and mastery of the material we’ve come to expect from this group was missing. You could hear a note of caution, understandable in handling material from another culture.

That quickly evaporated, however, when the group went into more familiar material, like the traditional Great Day and Over My Head, featuring soloist Sylvie Desgroseilliers.

It was at that point that virtually the entire hall leaped to its feet as one, the kind of gospel experience so many have felt in the group’s popular shows at the St. James United Church.

When the mood shifted to a more sombre The Lord is My Light, you could hear the calm, so perfectly was the crowd in tune with the music.

Later, Payne invited audience members up to the stage to sing, and dozens did so.

The choir was in top form and had the audience in the palm of its collective hand when deadline pressure compelled this reviewer to leave about half- way through. But an hour later, the joy from their stunning performance is still with me.