Bermuda hosted its first annual Gospel Music Festival with celebrities including Shirley Caesar, Fred Hammond, Mary Mary and more.
“It started out with just a want and a need to have more wholesome things for families to do,” said Kevin Bean who produced the show along with his partner Dale Jackson.
“The original idea was to choose artists for each night of the festival that drew a different audience. We have huge Fred Hammond fans here as we do for Shirley Caesar,” Kevin said of the three-day event hosted by BET’s Dr. Bobby Jones and held at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
The Gospel Reggae group Mission, former winners of BET’s “Sunday Best” Jessica Reedy and Y’anna Crawley, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Vashawn Mitchell, and powerhouse duo Mary Mary, helped kick off the event Sunday night.
“I kind of want to move here. The water out here is something else. The water out in California is dead wrong. We came out here looking at the water talking about ‘God, why you didn’t want to hook us up?’ But I guess Bermudians got it like that” said Mary Mary’s Erica about the beautiful beaches on the island.
On day two of the festival, George Huff of “American Idol” fame joined Dr. Jones to host the Divine Voices competition which gave local singers the rare opportunity to gain international exposure.
“I want the world to know that we have some fantastic singers and I’m gonna do my personal best to see to it that we become recognized around the world. That is what my mission is with this competition,” Kevin said about the talented people of Bermuda.
They were blessed to have Vashawn’s band and background singers stay on the island for an additional day to accompany them as they each sang one traditional and one contemporary song. Kassandra Caines, 18, threw down with her rendition of “I Worship You” and ultimately won the contest. She received a one-song record deal including a small distribution component.
“Every time I open up my voice I just know that it’s no longer me,” said Kassandra who later performed with Shirley Caesar.
While Vashawn was surprised by his young, contemporary Bermudian fan base—“I didn’t know they knew my songs like that,” he said—Shirley Caesar offered up some classic gospel. She took it back to the kind of church you go to with your grandmother. She and her singers put on an unbelievable show for over two hours, and half of that time was off the stage and on the lawn with the crowd, many of whom left their seats to touch the hand of the singer who said she felt an anointing.
,/br>“I don’t have much time, so I can’t shake everyone’s hand but if you need to, you come up here. Come on and just touch my hand,” she said.
Fred closed out the festival which was threatened by rainy weather, but after about twenty minutes of light showers, the rain dissipated, the stage dried, and there was a serious celebration of life and love going in the huge ocean-lined yard. It was the kind of performance that kept you out of your seat and clapping your hands together so hard they begin to hurt.
The producers of the festival are aiming to make this an annual event that only gets bigger and better each year. For more information on the festival, visit www.bermudagospelfestival.com.
Watch Mary Mary perform at the event.