Break out the church hats and handkerchiefs: Gospel concert coming this Sunday

Break out the church hats and handkerchiefs: Gospel concert coming this Sunday

New concert showcases local talent and oft-overlooked genre

Start practicing hallelujahs and bust out the seersucker, church hat and handkerchiefs.

Brown Sugar’s Gospel Explosion Sunday evening is going to be every bit as loud, bright and consuming as its name suggests.

“You will cry at this show,” said Juneau singer and event organizer Jocelyn Miles told the Capital City Weekly. “There are very moving pieces that you will be like, ‘I cannot believe that just came out of her mouth.’ I am very happy that it’s coming together.”

The event set for 6:30 p.m. at Juneau Arts & Culture Center is Miles’ vision and an attempt at putting Juneau’s soul on public display.

It will feature a murderer’s row of local vocal talent including members Brown Sugar — singers Miles, Ericka Lee and Salissa Thole — as well as Marian Call, Collette Costa, Sherry Patterson and Shona Osterhout.

<ul><li>Brown Sugar, a vocal group consisting of Ericka Lee, Jocelyn Miles and Salissa Thole, will part of the first Gospel Explosion, which is hoped to become an annual event. (Courtesy Photo | Brian Wallace) </li></ul>

Brown Sugar, a vocal group consisting of Ericka Lee, Jocelyn Miles and Salissa Thole, will part of the first Gospel Explosion, which is hoped to become an annual event. (Courtesy Photo | Brian Wallace)

“There’s a lot of spirit and experience right here, and we just kind of never galvanized it until Jocelyn had this idea,” Call said. “She’s been kind of the power behind this.”

Luke Weld will provide accompaniment on the piano, Brian Messing will play bass, Darren Jaeckel will play drums and Doug Bridges will play sax. Jess Skiba, Zoe Grueskin, Renèe Daniels and Susan Lummis will be backup singers. Abby O’Brien will host.

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Putting together a lineup of locals was one of the points of the project, Miles said.

The Rev. Bobby Lewis and “Maestro” Eustace Johnson of Harlem, New York, visit Juneau every year for gospel workshops and concerts in February, but Miles envisions Gospel Explosion as a possible annual showcase for Juneau singers with a love of gospel.

“Honestly, I just want to sing,” Miles said. “I feel like we do it once a year for the other faction. They’re great, and I love them, and I do it every year, but I wanted more.”

There will also be a Sunday’s best contest during the show with the winner receiving a $100 gift card to Salt.

“Bring your hats, bring your dapper shoes, your suits, your gloves,” Miles said.

That aspect of the show can be traced back to last year’s production of “Here’s Looking at You, Casablanca,” a cabaret-dinner theater-movie screening event that encourage attendees to dress up before walking into the Rockwell Ballroom, which was transformed into Rick’s Cafe.

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Call, who is helping organize Gospel Explosion and slated to perform, said performers and organizers were surprised by how excited the community was to get dressed up and have a night on the town. A lot of the talent in Sunday’s show were part of “Here’s Looking at You.”

“We didn’t know there’d be so much energy to have a fancy get dressed up and go out night on the town,” Call said.

Gospel Explosion’s music selections span eras. The audience can expect to hear songs made famous by Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin as well as more contemporary cuts.

“It’s all over the board,” Miles said. “The singers are varied. We’ve got myself, Marian, Sherry Patterson. It’s different experiences. It’s different voices.”

Call and Miles said they expect members of the audience to be among those voices.

“When they come, they should be ready to participate, to raise hands and say hallelujah,” Call said. “No faith required. It’s not a religious service. It’s not a sermon.”

Blending a variety of voices and perspectives is part of what the new concert is all about.

“One of the things that is rich about living in Alaska is that people who come from kind of all over the place bring different traditions back here,” Call said. “We have folks who are here from the South, we have folks who are here from all over bringing pieces of culture with them. This is an exciting opportunity to share an experience this really critical part of American tradition in Juneau of all places. People bring all of this here, and if we don’t make it an effort to bring it all together, it just stays this buried treasure.”

Know & Go

What: Brown Sugar’s Gospel Explosion

When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday, May 19

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier St.

Admission: Tickets cost $15 in advance and are available at the JACC, Hearthside Books & Toys or online through jahc.org. Admission costs $20 at the door.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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