FAMU choir at inaugural Gospel Explosion

nwilliams@bradenton.comFebruary 11, 2012 

MANATEE -- Its’ not an everyday occurrence that a small church can book one of the most popular gospel choirs in the nation, especially on the first try.

But members of St. Luke Primitive Baptist Church in Palmetto have done just that by securing Florida A&M University’ gospel choir for its inaugural Gospel Explosion concert today at Palmetto High School, 1200 17th St. The concert begins at 6 p.m. and is expected to end at 9 p.m.

A vast majority of the tickets have already been sold, but organizers say some may still be available at the door. Tickets are $12.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding,” said St. Luke pastor Jeffrey Mills, who became the church’s pastor two years ago. “This is my attempt to associate my congregation into gospel music ministry.”

Mills said the concert will also act as a celebration of Black History Month, but the initial idea behind the event was to bring a community together after a mass shooting at a night club in Palmetto last September that killed two and injured 22 more.

“It is our attempt to introduce ourselves as a community church,” Mills said.

Other solo performers and choirs are also expected to perform.

“Music presented so much throughout the African-American experience,” Mills said.

Keontra Campbell, the church’s Gospel Explosion concert committee chairperson, is a recent graduate of FAMU. He initiated the conversation with FAMU’s choir advisor Frances Stallworth. Mills taught African-American history at FAMU and also received in master’s degree at the Tallahassee institution. During his time at FAMU, he said he saw Stallworth, also an English professor at FAMU, on a daily basis.

“We shared the same hallway,” he said.

“It was a blessing that they agreed,” Campbell said.

Though he was surprised they accepted the invitation, it didn’t compare to the reaction he received from the committee members, which consist of Sandi Robertson, Jackie Robertson and Thaddeus Gollby.

“When we went into our committee meeting, I said FAMU has agreed and everyone started jumping and carrying on,” he said.

“I want them to get the experience to work out the kinks for next year,” Mills said.

Tickets have been on sale for two months and Campbell said the committee originally estimated sales of 400. But demand was so great that number was expanded 600. He said ticket sales will pay for the choir’s expenses, renting the high school’s auditorium and other costs.

With such a great start to what is expected to be an annual event, Mills is anticipating great progress in years to come.

“We want to celebrate through music.”

Nick Williams, East Manatee Reporter, can be reached at (941) 748-0411 ext. 7049. Tweet: @_1NickWilliams

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