Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
The Gospel At Colonus (1985 Philadelphia Cast)
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
Exhilarating Gospel variation on Greek Oedipus tragedy
NYC Music Lover | New Rochelle, NY USA | 05/09/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Gospel at Colonus is one of the great musical experiences of Gospel music apart from the natural home of Gospel - the church. Here Morgan Freeman, before his breakout roles in the 1990's, acts out the roles of narrator and of Oedipus the King, to perform an updated version of the Oedipus at Colonus story (original by Sophocles). The staged version, seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and in Philadelphia (where it was taped for Great Performances/PBS), was on Broadway for only a few short weeks. The original cast performance actually combines the staged version as seen live at the American Music Theatre Festival,with two fragments from an earlier "concept album" - no longer available (1984, Warner 25182).In the story, Oedipus - having committed his unknowingly incestuous and murderous acts against his parents - now seeks rest and redemption at Colonus where he was destined to die, accompanied by his daughters. The Gospel at Colonus, staged in a pseudo-church environment, brings the sin and redemption story into the Gospel milieu. Singers and actors act the roles, sometimes more than one per part. The J.D. Steele Singers - especially the phenomenal Jevetta Steele - and the remarkable Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Albama are the core performers. They sing with passion and fervor, and enliven the music with gospel-like improvisation. The music, by Bob Telson, is filled with many beauties and joys. Most notable are the opening "Live Where You Can", the lovely solo "Fair Colonus", and the deeply moving "Numberless are the World's Wonders" - the later of which is based on the "Polla ta dhina", which served as a text which later inspired Shakespeare. No song is a wasted moment or a throw-away, nor is there any excess, such as those fillers which provide so often filler while staging is being changed in so many shows. Treat yourself to a real delight. If you seek real gospel music, go to the masters, such as Mahalia Jackson! . But if you love both gospel and theatre, and want something more than the usual fare, then go and grab this album while Nonesuch still makes it available. Thank you Nonesuch for giving us this great gift of theatre preserved on cd!!!"
A Perfect Fusion -- A Path to Joy
Fragile Industries | Bakersfield-By-The-Sea, CA USA | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The old joke for a bad musical used to be "you leave humming the sets." The reverse, the absolute opposite, has to be, "you leave humming your soul." This unlikely mix of classical Greek theater and Pentacostal spiritual tradition brings home searing messages about redemption, forgiveness and family, and rocks your world.
I first saw this transformative play in its Los Angeles out-of-town outing in the mid-80's. Within 10 minutes, I jumped up on my chair and swayed from side to side, along with my date, and, once I cared to check, most of the audience. I was raised in both of these traditions; the classical theater and gospel informed both sides of my family. I was breathless by intermission and speechless with joy by final curtain. I saw it several times more in LA, and then on PBS Great Performances, weeping and dancing like an idiot in my own living room. A few years later, after Broadway, it came to SF, where I had moved. Of course, I saw it there, dragging more of my quickly convinced friends.
This CD captures enough of the magic of the performance, the spine-tingling vocals (the amazing Jeveretta Steele in Lift Him Up) the collage of spiritual-RB-blues styles (want blues? Lift Me Up, for one), the beautiful lyrics (Numberless Are The Worlds Wonders), the musical flesh that informed the frame of the classical Oedipus myth -- enough to make the purchase more than worthwhile.
But let me add my voice to those who want the full experience! PBS, please release the Great Performance production! For one thing, it preseves an early performance of the great Morgan Freeman, before Hollywood (also in the LA production, and unforgettable), and the visuals of the Pentacostal experience, through which the audience's emotional response is echoed, and cued, just as a Greek chorus but a lot more fun.
I'm a fairly old lady, I've seen and enjoyed a lot of musicals, in LA, SF, and a lot on Broadway over the last ten years. I have NEVER been so affected."
El Lagarto | Sandown, NH | 11/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1985 my then wife, a cultural activities enthusiast, enrolled us in The University Of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Theatre Program. When she told me the premise of Gospel At Colonus, I could barely contain my supercilious disdain. The story of Oedipus, as performed by a gospel choir, what priceless lunacy!
(Actually, I did even then have a taste for gospel music. As a choirboy, driving to our frightfully correct Episcopal Church, I listened to WDAS on the car radio, which broadcast services from The Cornerstone Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. The preaching and singing were mesmerizing. "That," I thought, "is how people should feel about their religion, that is the joy and faith and jubilation of true belief.")
We entered the Annenberg with elitist skepticism and left exalted and humbled. This was not only one of the greatest performances I've ever seen; it was one of my life's memorable moments.
When The Brooklyn Institutional Radio Choir opened full force with Live Where You Can, I felt a lump in my throat, I got goose bumps, and I immediately burst into tears. It was so exquisitely beautiful, so powerful, and so completely righteous that I went into a sensory overload. I spent the next hours in a state of rapture.
As narrator, Morgan Freeman was dignified and formal, with a rich, stentorian voice. Freeman's enunciation and delivery were impeccable, he massaged the words, listening to him was intoxicating. (In 1985 he was not yet one of our most distinguished actors, he was "that guy" on Electric Company, a PBS kid's show.)
The choir would have been enough, but as The Original Five Blind Boys From Alabama entered, (a chain of men hand to shoulder), it almost seemed that spirits were being summoned. Clarence Fountain, lead, sang with such intensity and conviction that it felt like every note might have been the last one of his life, and he wanted to give it everything he had. Jevetta Steele's voice rang out clear and pure, a wonderful counterpoint to Fountain's raw, shout delivery.
This was one of those extraordinary moments when everything comes together. The quality of the songs is superb throughout; the musicians are all exceptionally good, and the collaboration created something that is far greater than the sum of the parts - something musically enchanting and spiritually satisfying. Not to be missed."