What a time at Rev. Brenda Boone’s annual Gospel Concert in Portsmouth, VA in celebration of Black History Month on February 28, 2016. In addition to the usual all star line up of area gospel vocalists and quartets, the program featured the return home of the legendary Golden Gate Quartet. The Golden Gate Quartet, one of the most important quartets of the 20th Century, trace their beginnings to a Norfolk, VA, barbershop in 1934. By mid-1936, the Gates were touring the Carolinas and singing over local radio stations. They became so popular, singing their own brand of rhythmic narrative jubilee style songs, that they were signed to RCA Victor Records where they began recording in 1937. After appearances on the nationally broadcast NBC radio network, they were brought to New York City to perform on John Hammond’s legendary 1938 “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall. The Gates have sung at the White House several times and appeared in a number of motion pictures. The style of jubilee spirituals they pioneered became a model for thousands of spiritual and gospel groups that followed. Since the mid-1950’s, the Golden Gate Quartet has been based in Paris and performing worldwide. They’ve performed in 77 different countries. Since 1957, they’ve only sung in the United States three times – once at the United in Group Harmony Association’s Hall of Fame in 1994 (Charlie Horner helped bring them here then), one for the filming of a television program taped in Disney World and once at the memorial service for the group’s long time bass and leader, Orlandus Wilson. Having them back in Virginia was an indeed historic moment.
On this occasion, the group’s bass singer, Thierry Francois, was unable to join them, and the Gates were forced to locate another bass singer with only a couple days notice. Fortunately, Otis Jones, bass singer for the great gospel group, King David’s Harp, volunteered to fill in and did a magnificent job on short notice The Golden Gate Quartet was magnificent as usual. We’ve seen the Golden Gate Quartet a number of times in Europe and our proud to be regarded as their friends. This time we were honored to be invited to the Gates rehearsals the day before the performance. Our sincere thanks to Paul Brembly, Frankie Davis, Mike Robinson, Otis Jones, Joel Rocher (the Gates’ musical director) and of course Rev. Brenda Boone (the program’s producer and promoter).
And the Golden Gate Quartet was just one of eleven magnificent vocal groups and soloists that sang on this evening. The incredible night included powerful gospel music by Rev. Luther Barnes & the Sunset Jubilaires, King David’s Harp, the Mighty Stars, Rev. Ronald Harper & the Harmonizing Echoes, the Word Singers, the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg, NC, Min. Paul Boone & the TempleAires, Danny Hill & Group Determination, Rev. Brenda Boone & the Higher Praise Community Choir (featuring Sister Mattie Wood), Amelia Sears Goodman and Carolyn Smith.