For Lowell and the Merrimack Valley: Reflecting on the Gospel Concert of Thanksgiving

Eliot Presbyterian Church Sanctuary, Lowell MA

This afternoon over 150 people in a diverse audience gathered in the main sanctuary of  Lowell’s Eliot Presbyterian Church found a teriffic way to begin the season of Thanksgiving. With the welcoming words of  CTI Executive Director Karen Frederick who reminded all that “the 1800 familes in a room in a hotel” need  their own homes – that’s why we are here today.” She praised this community that needs to and does step-up to help the homeless and the hungry. Today’s concert benefited the Merrimack Valley Regional Network to End Homelessness  – a partnership of over 50 agencies – and educational scholarships at Middlesex Community College.

Lura Smith resplendant and sparkling in black and silver – opened her Fourth Gospel Concert of Thanksgiving of special guest artists  and groups not with a performance but with a soulful gospel-style singing of  “Thank you Lord, You’ve been good to me” and “Jesus Died Upon the Cross in Love for Me.” Smith skillfully wove her inimitable warmth and New Orleans charm throughout the personal introductions of her musical guests and her own seemingly spontaneous prayerful gospel-style vocals. She brought her audience with her on what she called a “fast moving train” – as those who follow her know well understand – encouraging clapping, foot-tapping, swaying both in the pews and on your feet and – of course  – the “Amen” that joins everyone together. Holyoke native Bernard Smith invited us to “Pray for Me”  – and  uplifted the audience with “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.”

The array of musicans and vocalists included the traditional sound of The Voices of New Hope Gospel Choir  in “There’s a friend in Jesus”,  local artist/guitarist Don Ouellette  with a beautiful rendition of “Mary Did you Know?” and vocalists Anita Burnes  – whose husband is the Pastor of the Andover Baptist Church –  inspired with “I Come Because I Love the Lord” and “He’s an Old Time God, yes he is!” and fresh from California  Anita Myos stunned with an incredible voice with “Jesus is the best Thing that ever happend to me.” The LoveTones harmonized  an acapella medley of spirituals –  “Born Again” – “All in His Hands” –  Jesus is my Rock.”  New Orleans native Joseph Darensburg – Catholic-raised but Baptist-inspired – chanted from “The Song of Solomon” in Hebrew and with violin propped between his knees sang in Arabic. Meanwhile the intstrumental excellence of James Seibles at the piano and Hammond organ, David Dubinsky on trumpet, Doug Leaffer on Saxophone and David Hurst on Drums at times raised the sanctuary roof!

To close the concert and in support of those in the military – led by Lura Smith – the audience joined  the choir, vocalists and musicians in a community sing of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

The concert was followed by a reception in the church hall with refreshments provided by LaBoniche.

It was truly the best way to open and set the tone for this holiday season of Thanksgiving and Community Giving. Join us next year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day – you’ll be glad that you did!


One Response to For Lowell and the Merrimack Valley: Reflecting on the Gospel Concert of Thanksgiving

  1. Doug Leaffer says:

    HI Richard. This is Doug Leaffer, the saxophonist in your photo, shown with Lura Smith. I really enjoy the photo and would like to have a copy, if possible. Can you email a higher resolution .jpg or similar format ? Thank you