|ELVIS IN THE CATHEDRAL
MARCH 19th 2011
By Briget From Liverpool
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Coventry Cathedral originates back to 1043 with a new building designed in 1962 to link with the ruins. It’s
only natural to connect with this grand sacred building, weddings, christenings, communions and funerals
but who’d have thought in a million years that it would host a sell out concert in celebration of Elvis Presley'
contribution to his greatest love, inspiration and comfort, Gospel Music.
This was the second of two such events and both held inside of a Cathedral. The first was a day or so
earlier at Llandraff Cathedral in Cardiff and quite a few people had travelled to see both concerts. A
congregation made up of Elvis fans! Both of the events were organized by Carol Pugh (Elvis in Wales Fan
Club) and David Wade of the Elvis Travel Service.
Now…. it gets better again! Who better than to represent the celebrations than Terry Blackwood, Joe
Moscheo, Royce Taylor (tenor and former member of The Stamps Quartet) and Darrell Toney (baritone
and huge Jerry Reed fan!) Elvis’ Imperials (The Imperials).
So here we were inside of a cathedral with these amazing guys all the way from Nashville, Tennessee to
perform for us. Joining Elvis’ Imperials was the sensational Morriston Orpheus Choir a seventy plus strong
(didn’t quite get a head count) male voice choir from South Wales and Jenson Bloomer, all under the
watchful eye of musical director Joy Amman Davies.
There wasn’t an orchestra, all we had was an organ (played by Les Ryan who was out of site at the back
of the choir), sax and flute (Griff Harris), piano (Jo Scullen) and Jenson had his pianist of twenty years with
him for a couple of songs but I’m sorry I can’t remember his name.
The doors opened about 6-30pm and the show to start about 7-30pm. You could purchase a programme
for £3.00 and the profits from the sales over the two concerts were going to be split between The National
Institute for the Deaf on behalf of Myrna Smith and to Brenda Hall Neilsen, Sherrill Neilson’s widow in order
to help pay some of his outstanding medical bills. It was hard to believe where you where, all of
this hustle and bustle inside of a cathedral made up of fan clubs, regular worshippers and Elvis fans. At the front of the cathedral they had set up a make shift
stage with seats for the choir and six microphones. The first person to greet us was the Dean, Father John Irvine who gave a brief history of the cathedral, a
mention of the previous night’s concert in Cardiff and how successful it was and how he wanted every one ‘to rock the joint’ enjoying what was planned in
Coventry. Make no mistake this man was well aware of Elvis Presley’s impact on the world and his love of gospel music. Following a quick prayer David Wade
came to the pulpit to have a brief chat too before introducing The Morriston Orpheus Choir.
How proud these guys looked as they made their way to the front in a single file all dressed in black
suits, white shirts and black dicky bows, standing to attention with chests expanded to full capacity
waiting for the signal to go from their musical director Joy Amman Davies. These guys let rip with
voices so powerful the folk in Cardiff probably could have heard them again from Coventry.
They started their set off with (some ballads were included too during the concert) It’s Now Or Never,
Love Me Tender, I’m Gonna Walk (Dem Golden Stairs) with plenty of bop, bop, boppin and hands
tapping their thighs finishing with The Wonder Of You.
They were sensational and the audience gave them a standing ovation. I couldn’t believe I was
listening to a choir in a cathedral doing this, but then again neither could any one else. The guys took
a seat and a well earned rest while Jenson Bloomer came on next and gave a fabulous rendition of There’s Always Me and You Don’t Know Me joined by
his own pianist John Anthony, I remembered his name yeah!! The acoustics in that place were amazing and complimented the theme of the evening perfectly.
The choir stood to perform again this time it was 100% pure gospel. Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Take My Hand Precious Lord and an absolute amazing
Amazing Grace. Listening to this performance and their earlier performance it was as if they were just warming up at the beginning. Just incredible. Now by
this time I was actually feeling it all get to me it was just an amazing feeling.
I even had tears in my eyes and I’m not ashamed of that. But one thing for sure is Elvis might have left the building 34 years ago but it sure felt as if he was
back that night. Jenson returned to perform solo and sang I’ll Remember You and I Really Don’t Want to Know. Before a fifteen minute interval Jenson
and the choir performed together Always On My Mind and a mind blowing You’ll Never Walk Alone. During the interval people could have a nosey at a
small selection of memorabilia at the back.
The choir returned to the front and this time wearing white jackets to replace the black
ones. Carol Pugh introduced the second part of the concert and brought out to the
stage Elvis’ Imperials who were received with a wonderful warm and sincere welcome
from the audience.
The guys performed a set of nine numbers opening with the always great to hear This
Train. Terry touched on how much Elvis relied on religion and gospel music before
launching in to I Believe. Phew, what wonderful voices and stage presence. They are
amazing to listen to as soloists and in harmony. Bosom Of Abraham was next and they
had everybody including themselves and the choir clapping their hands and just having
everybody doing what the Dean said he wanted to happen and that was ‘rock the joint’.
Terry sang lead, wonderful harmonies from Royce and Darrell and Joe Moscheos deep
bass tone was awesome. There was a little bit of joking round then with the audience
before they sang acapella style Sweet, Sweet, Spirit with Royce leading the way.
I love this number it really gets to you and without doubt sends a shiver up your spine a
number also enjoyed and shared with The Imperials and Elvis up in the penthouse suite when they performed with Elvis. They finished this particular set off
with the Grammy Award winning He Touched Me followed by Great Getting’ Up Morning, Oh Happy Day, How Great Thou Art and Peace In The Valley
which Terry mentioned Elvis sang on his third Ed Sullivan show for his mum. How Great Though Art, needless to say brought the house down it was utterly
Jenson Bloomer returned to the stage to perform with Elvis’ Imperials. He took lead and the quartet stood side by side each other and became the backing
singers. Together they performed Help Me, the Bee Gees Words and Let It Be Me with Royce adding a beautiful solo. The concert ended with Elvis’
Imperials, Jenson Bloomer and the choir performing Stand By Me and Can’t Help Falling In Love.
The applause must have lasted about 10 minutes and the cheers for just as long. This was an absolutely amazing night and experience. The atmosphere
inside of the cathedral that night was magical and you felt safe. Listening to it all gave you a feeling of a huge pair of arms sweeping you up and embracing
you. No wonder Elvis loved gospel and I can see why he found great solace in it. I hope with all my heart that we experience this again, I’ll never forget it. The
choir and Jenson were fantastic and Elvis’ Imperials were the icing on the cake. For those who didn’t see it you must if it comes back again.
|© Briget from Liverpool, text and images used by Elvis Express Radio with permission.