It was inevitable. With Memphis being a virtual hotbed of raw, musical talent with scores of singers, songwriters, producers and arrangers, and being known as the cradle for nurturing phenomenal talent and launching renowned, award-winning, gospel choirs and careers, it was bound to happen at some point.
That “it” is the soul-stirring, foot-stomping, joyous good time that gospel music lovers and performers will have at “Victory!” – the 2019 Gospel Choir Competition slated for Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 620 Parkrose Rd., in Westwood.
Recording gospel great Kevin Davidson of the famed Kevin Davidson and the Voices (right out of Binghampton) will not only be the affair’s emcee, but will highlight the event with a performance. Davidson will also sit on the celebrity panel of judges.
And as if that was not enough, the organizing Victory Coalition has invoked the star power of Nashville’s gospel music host, Bobby Jones, to come aboard. The winner of the competition will be featured live on “The Bobby Jones Show.”
The first-place choir will also be given an opportunity to record a single, thanks to Davidson.
The Victory Coalition will host the event annually to support charities and organizations that, for the most part, serve the African-American community. Charles Sims, noted financial planner and philanthropist, set out to devise a more substantial vehicle for supporting the work of these organizations.
“Over the course of time, many of our organizations have struggled, moreso than others,” said Sims. “There is so much competition for that charity donation that I felt we needed to devise some event, some fundraising endeavor, to ensure that these very worthwhile organizations have the resources to do their work.”
Those four organizations are Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee, MBI Youth Academy of Dreams, P.U.R.E. Youth Athletics Alliance, and The Arc Mid-South.
“We have the power to be self-reliant,” Sims said. “We decided to adopt the FUBU concept – ‘For Us, By Us’ – to provide the needed funding. Then I asked, ‘Where should we start?’ Of course, the church. The church has always been the center of our community when we organized, or we needed to mobilize our people for some common purpose. And what kind of music do we love? Gospel music. That was it, a choir competition, I thought, with a panel of celebrity judges who know good gospel music.”
Monday’s meeting took care of a few in-house details of staging the event, itself, as well as the logistics and fundraising. Sims explained his method of choosing the best-loved choirs in the city.
“I conducted unscientific research on Facebook and asked, ‘What church has the best choir in Memphis?’ Thousands responded, but there were some names that came up many, many times. From those, we will choose 12 participants.”
Earl Gray Jr., an advisor with the Victory Coalition, will chair the process of choir selection.
“We will choose 12 competitors from the massive response received online,” said Gray. “Of course, there will also be some alternates named in the event one or more of the original 12 cannot participate, for some reason.”
The event is an endeavor of Sims’ M-Town Productions and Events and will annually be a part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration events.
Additional information regarding participants will be announced in December and tickets will go on sale at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Bookstore with additional locations to be determined later.
With a sellout projected, the event will be interactively live-streamed for those who can’t witness the competition in person.