Just before How Majestic brought last night’s soul summit with the Kentucky State Gospel Ensemble to a jubilant first set zenith, Lexington Philharmonic conductor/music director Scott Terrell handed out thanks to the massive conglomerate of artists onstage and wished the crowd well until they met again after intermission.
Then came an audience reply from the first few rows that might normally seem foreign at an orchestral event: “Alright, my brother.”
Such was the feeling of solidarity at the Singletary Center for the Arts as the Philharmonic steered its repertoire toward spirituals. A lush yet serene delivery of Morton Gould’s Deep River served as an early highlight while the Kentucky State choir proved a youthful, exuberant and powerfully soulful vocal foil throughout the concert’s first half.
The rest of the performance belonged almost exclusively to the multi Grammy and Dove Award winning vocal troupe Take 6. The Philharmonic responded in kind to the hushed lyricism of Bless This House and nicely augmented the family friendly balladry of Lullaby. But it also operated as a musically complete entity whether the Philharmonic was on Take 6’s heels or not.
A vocal sextet raised in gospel, versed in jazz and accessible, in the broadest of terms, to pop references, Take 6 opened with light, high harmonies that sounded curiously like the Beach Boys. But once Smile commenced, Take 6 operated essentially as jazz band – not a jazz vocal group, but an actual jazz band with Joey Kibble mimicking trumpet lines and older sibling Mark Kibble playing the role of overzealous drummer. But those seemed almost like novelty moments compared to what bass singer Alvin Chea was dishing out. Throughout the program he handled the bottom end of Take 6’s airy harmonies with ease. But he also sang in punctuated beats to serve as the vocal equivalent of a string bass.
From there Take 6 took flight. Claude McKnight’s high tenor lead ignited a potent Wade in the Water, Joey Kibble sermonized with suitable vigor prior to the set closing affirmation Over the Hill is Home and Mark Kibble ignited the more fearsosme gospel urgency of Mary (a Take 6 modification of the spiritual Mary Don’t You Weep).
At it wildest, the group turned the concert on its ear by offering what Chea introduced as the “Lexington remix” of I’ve Got Life. Specifically, that meant the tune was all organic hip hop with the singers vocalizing beats and bass while the music took all kinds of intriguing detours, including one down a New Orleans alley seemingly modeled after Allen Toussaint’s ’70s funk classic Yes We Can Can.
It was a wild stylistic ride for sure, but one that Terrell and the Philharmonic nicely navigated through, even during the instances when the guests commandeered the wheel.