“James Fortune & FIYA and Friends”
Gospel Music Workshop of America
Centennial Ballroom – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, GA
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Bob Marovich

Photo: Alexis Spight (center) with James Fortune (right)

The Gospel Music Workshop of America.  Your mind conjures up images of delegations of robed choirs singing traditional songs with contemporary flair, gospel announcers learning best practices, quartets performing in the Quartet Quest competition, the GMWA Mass Choir, new songs to take back home, and classes on everything from keyboard basics to choral directing.

But that doesn’t mean the nation’s top-selling gospel artists don’t make appearances.  They do, and on Tuesday, July 29, James Fortune & FIYA headlined one of the GMWA’s legendary midnight musicals.

The musical certainly lived up to its name.  Although scheduled to start at 11:00 p.m., “James Fortune & FIYA and Friends” was delayed because a GMWA choral program using the Centennial Ballroom ran overtime, most likely a victim of another overtime program earlier in the day.  Finally, at 12:30 a.m., several hundred believers, in every sense of the word, spilled into the ballroom for the program.

The musical, which concluded around 3:15 in the morning, was a showcase of the new generation of gospel singers whose appeal is mainly to the young and young-at-heart, but whose presence on radio has introduced them to gospel enthusiasts outside the demographic.

Guest artists took turns duetting with Fortune.  Isaac Carree sang his bouncy hit, “But God,” with Fortune, and red-haired BET Sunday Best finalist Alexis Spight shared the mike with Fortune on “Did It All For Me.”  Lisa Knowles, a member of FIYA, brought her quartet-fueled Brown Singers.  Knowles and Zacardi Cortez, who did his hit, “One on One,” were generally responsible for the musical’s spontaneous praise eruptions.

Jacksonville, Frida, was well represented bv Uncle Reese (“Till I Pass Out”), a young man who renders R&B-flavored gospel with dramatic flair; and Verto, who performed “Everything.” Todd Galberth delivered “Lord You’ve Been Good” and Minon Sarten sang her new single, “Who I Am.”

James Fortune & FIYA closed out the musical with Cortez interjecting his explosive and gritty vocals, and the musicians, led by the talented Ay’Ron Lewis, supplying funk grooves pulled straight out of the Famous Flames songbook.

It did not matter what time the event ended.  One had a hard time getting to sleep after so many energetic performances in a row.

james fortune 2

Lisa Knowles with James Fortune

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.