*There’s a new gospel sheriff in town!
Taraji P. Henson is taking over as host of BET’s “Celebration of Gospel.”
Steve Harvey‘s 13-year run as host has come to an end.
*Judges and contestants come and go, but Musical Director Ray Chew is still manning the post now for seasons 10, 11 and 12 on Fox’s “American Idol.”
But this is just a continuation of Ray’s stellar career as a conductor for nationally televised events. His other credits include “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” “The Singing Bee” on NBC, and BET’s “Sunday Best.”
Ray has performed with an A-list of stars including Aretha Franklin, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, Prince, James Taylor, Anita Baker, Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Barry Manilow, T.I., Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson and Quincy Jones.
Ray also brought his musical genius to Carnegie Hall with the sold out “A Night Of Inspiration,” which featured Shirley Caesar, Kurt Carr, Michael McDonald, Bebe and Cece Winans, a 123 voice mass choir and a 53 piece orchestra. Maestro Chew has conducted “A Tribute to Motown,” as well as Donald Trump’s “Miss USA” and “Miss Universe” pageants, among other award shows for the BET network. Ray also orchestrated and conducted a 63 piece orchestra for “The Diary of Alicia Keys” farewell tour at LA’s Hollywood Bowl.
Ray has been featured on over 100 award winning Gold and Platinum recordings. He has served as a trustee of NARAS, and currently sits on it’s New York Chapter Board. Meanwhile, he still finds time to make his own great music. Ray Chew’s latest release is titled “Feeling It” and is available at www.raychew.com.
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Recently Francis attended the recording of this year’s “Celebration of Gospel” in Hollywood for the first time where some of her favorite gospel vocalists ( Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Marvin Sapp) were among the performers.
The aspiring entertainer was also a big fan of late pop legend Whitney Houston who Kelly Price paid tribute to during the event fittingly singing “Jesus Loves Me,” the last song Houston sang at Price’s Pre-Grammy party just two days before her untimely passing.
Francis, a 42-year-old mom from Brooklyn, NY has put the highly publicized confrontation between her and Houston that transpired at Price’s party behind her. During an interview on the blue carpet she was respectfully mum about the incident, choosing to reflect on a few inspiring words Houston said to her:
“The wonderful thing that I love about her — even on that night she said some things to me that were moving. She said God is a God of second chances.”
Indeed, Francis did not win X-Factor, has a television project in the works and music in development that may give her a send chance at stardom.
In one of her last televised performances, Whitney sang the R. Kelly penned song “I look to You” in a duet of with Kim Burrell at Celebration og Gospel in 2010.
Check out her interview on the blue carpet at BET’s Celebration of Gospel:
Kick off the Easter season with the 12th Annual Celebration fo Gospel, airing on BET on Palm Sunday, April 1. Check your local listings for airing times.
*“I wanted to make her a modern day girl, Snow White was a dark tale,” said Tarsem Singh (Immortals) director of the Relativity film Mirror Mirror, a funny and adventurous tale of the classic fairy-tale Snow White, which hit theaters March 30, 2012.
Mirror Mirror stars Julia Roberts as the evil Queen, Lily Collins (The Blind Side) as Snow White and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as the Prince. The screenplay adaption of the fairy-tale was written by Marc Klein (Serendipity) and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher), and based on the screen story by Melisa Wallack (Meet Bill). The Rated PG motion picture is produced by Bernie Goldmann (300), Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter) and Brett Ratner (Rush Hour franchise).
“I had no interest in fairy-tales,” said Oscar winning Julia Roberts about choosing to take on the role of the evil Queen in Mirror Mirror. “…Until Tarsem allured me in his alluring way. It was fun to play ‘this’ villain.”
The retelling of the fairy-tale starts when the King vanishes and his evil wife seizes control of the kingdom, and keeps her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White, hidden in the palace. When the Princess attracts the attention of a handsome and rich Prince, the evil Queen gets jealous and banishes her into the near-by forest. Snow White befriends a band of rebellious dwarfs who teach her how to be a brave young woman who becomes determined to save her country from her evil stepmother.
“There was 40 tons of salt so the air was very dry, which made the environment very cold,” Lily Collins said about the forest she spent time in, which was set in the winter with lots of ‘snow.’ “I had so many bumps and bruises, trips and falls.”
The customs wore by Snow White and the evil Queen provokes images of the fairy-tale classic, but in a lighter and fun way. There is singing and the comedic punch-lines that help to take a dark story and make it light.
“It became a second skin, the process of becoming Snow White,” Lily pointed out about the colorful and beautiful gowns she wears in Mirror Mirror.
“They were stunning,” Roberts adds about her gowns. “…Original and authentic…”
Mirror Mirror is released to theaters March 30, 2012. For more on the Relativity film log onto www.MirrorMirrorFilm.com.
Gospel and secular performers unite for BET’s ‘Celebration of Gospel,’ to air April 1, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.ET
*BET will air its 12th annual “Celebration of Gospel” with a theme of “Rise Up! Renew! Rejoice!” as Gospel and secular superstars unite for a Praise party on Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.ET. Hosted again by Steve Harvey, the “Celebration of Gospel” will have performances by such great performers as Kirk Franklin, with Mali Music; Kelly Price, for a tribute to Whitney Houston; Faith Evans and Jessica Reedy; Earnest Pugh, Isaac Carree, James Fortune & FIYA; Ricky Dillard & New G, with Johnny Gill, Ledisi, Marvin Sapp, Dr, Bobby Jones, Jennifer Holliday, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams and many more.
The two-hour special was tapped at the legendary Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. It is produced by BET, headed by Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials; Lynne Harris Taylor, BET’s vice president of specials projects and music production, and Geovanni Brewer, BET’s executive producer. The very talented Ray Chew returns as musical director.
As always Steve Harvey keeps the show going with laughter and the performances are all outstanding. The red carpeted event, as always, had a long line of anxious BET supporters wanting to be a part of the audience. The audience also included such celebrities as Kim Whitley, Amber Bullock, Kenny Lattimore, Wendy Raquel Robinson (who offered a spoken word performance), and Michelle Williams.
BET’s 12th annual “Celebration of Gospel” is the #1 Gospel/religious telecast since its inception. Therefore, it’s only fitting that it will air Palm Sunday, April 1st, a great way to start off the Easter season.
For more information on BET’s “Celebration of Gospel” log onto www.BET.com/COG.
(Eunice Moseley is a syndicated entertainment columnist, www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com)
*Recorded in Los Angeles on December 11, the eleventh installment of BET’s Celebration of Gospel felt like a welcome home concert for legendary R&B acts, as once wayward singers found sanctuary on the Orpheum Theatre stage.
Themed “Keeping the Faith” the two-hour special was hosted by actor/comedian Steve Harvey. The show unites gospel and R&B talent for an all-out celebration of the music that has shaped Black Music as a whole–the music of the church. By the end of the evening, however R&B tole the show.
Representing the R&B side there were performances by El DeBarge, Chaka Khan, Howard Hewitt, Chante Moore, Kelly Price and a surprise performance by Whitney Houston. Without a doubt, DeBarge, Chaka and Houston were the stand out acts of the spirit-filled night.
Joining in with Chaka, many swaying and waving their hands with their eyes closed — feeling it — attendees sang: “You touch me and something in me knows. . .right down to the wire. Even through the fire. . .” And even though the classic ballad “Through the Fire” was not “gospelized” everyone in ear shot of Chaka’s voice knew this version was about her relationship with God.
When the band broke it down the multi-Grammy- award-winning diva reflected on her past (known to have been scorched by drug addiction), which she said was defined by hard partying until she finally heeded her mother’s advice to get on her knees and pray. Punctuating what has been a remarkable comeback year, gentle-toned crooner El DeBarge, sang beautifully his hit song “Second Chance.” Howard Hewitt joined him on stage completing the appearance with his classic “Say Amen,” again transforming the audience into a big choir. Bowing his head, as Hewitt hugged him, Debarge who spent two years in prison for drug possession, appeared to be humbled and overwhelmed by the torrent of acceptance.
But then came the most jaw-dropping, must see performance of them all.
As if being mesmerized by Kim Burrell’s sanctified syncopation wasn’t enough, Whitney Houston emerged to join her friend in a duet of Houston’s song “I Look to You.” In sheer amazement, the crowd erupted with praise at the sight of Houston. Earlier last year, Houston reportedly canceled several tour dates due to an alleged drug use relapse and vocal troubles. Houston, who in 1996 recorded the “Preachers Wife” soundtrack and starred in the movie was vocally vibrant, holding the long notes the way she did in her prime.
These artists’ “to-hell-and-back” testimonies are no secret. Their stories are all woven together in the urban entertainment lexicon by the thread of drug abuse and redemption. Transparency truly worked to their advantage as fans readily embraced their passion-filled lyrical testimonies that were cloaked in the inspiring R&B songs they sang.
That night I witnessed the maturation and progression of a show. COG wasn’t so much about gospel music, but The Gospel itself and its ability to transform lives.
While R&B took the spotlight, the gospel performances were also par excellent.
Both Mary Mary and Kirk Frankin, COG veterans, premiered songs from their respective forthcoming albums. The rousing presentation in remembrance of late gospel greats Bishop Walter Hawkins and Albertina Walker (with performances by Smokie Norful, Byron Cage and Kathy Taylor) was a treat. Another blazing performance came from the female quartet made up of Sunday Best alums Y’Anna Crawley, Jessica Reedy and Leandria Johnson along with R& B songstresses Chante Moore and Kelly Price. A bevy of new comers including Beverly Crawford, Ernest Pugh, VaShawn Mitchell (accompanied on acoustic guitar by Israel Houghton), and Jonathan Nelson and Purpose also contributed to an unforgettable night.
By allowing R&B artists to shine in their element and widening the breadth of participating gospel talent, this year COG made a glorious transition to its sweet spot.
Celebration of Gospel aired on BET Sunday, January 30. Look out for repeat airings in the coming weeks or view it online anytime HERE:
*Keeping the Faith is the theme of this year’s Celebration of Gospel and EUR was on the red carpet where some of your favorite gospel artist testified about how they Keep the faith.
Hosted by comedian and popular game show host Steve Harvey, the celebration will air January 30, 2011 at 8:00PM ET/PT featuring Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, VaShawn Mitchell, Chaka Kahn, Smokie Norful, Kim Burrell with surprise guest Whitney Houston Also watch out for El DeBarge and more from the secular and gospel music world.