Donald Lawrence and Company (2008)
The doors opened at 6 PM sharp, and no more than 30 minutes later, the spacious auditorium was filled to capacity with people waiting with great anticipation for the session to begin. This event attracted an impressive list of Who's Who in the gospel music industry, including NCGCC President Bishop Kenneth Moales, Richard Smallwood, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Ted Wynn (of Ted and Sheri), Coko, Theresa Hairston and several members of the Verity/Zomba staff including Damon Williams, Jackie Patillo and Jeff Grant. The Chicago Gospel community was out in large numbers as well. Seen in the audience were Apostle Donald Alford, Smokie Norful, Jason Tyson, Percy Bady, Darius Brooks, Joann Rosario, Mark Hubbard, Malcolm Williams, Ricky Dillard, Kim Stratton, BET's Sunday's Best finalist Sherri Addison, Cinque Cullar as well as members of the Chicago Area Gospel Announcers' Guild.
Introductory greetings were given by Bill Winston, pastor of Living Word Christian Center. It was a series of messages taught by Winston that served as inspiration for the songs that followed. The Law of Confession will also be in book form, to be released prior to the album launch. Pastor Winston effectively charged the audience to take God at His Word and change the paradigm by speaking the very words of God as contained in scripture. The practicality of Pastor Winston's message seemed to resonate with the congregation and after sharing some additional principles, Pastor Winston invited the Lord to bless the recording and the listeners and presented Donald Lawrence and the Company.
Lawrence took the stage and introduced his singers. He made mention of the fact that his new group was in fact not so new, as they had provided background assistance on earlier previous project, I Speak Life. Familiar faces in the group included DeWayne Woods and Blanche McAllister Dykes (from Tri-City Singers), Latrice Pace (of the Pace Sisters), Anita Wilson and Chicago hometown favorites Floyd Wilkerson and Kim McFarland Anderson. Donald noted that the group's moniker is a tribute to one of his all time favorite groups, The Thomas Whitfield Company.
The session opened with a poignant delivery of Michael W. Smith's "Ancient Words". Next, The Company engaged in the emphatic proclamation of "The Word of the Lord". It was the reaffirmation of God's words put to music, a practice that believers need to utilize daily.
"The Law of Confession", featuring Blanche McAllister Dykes and Tobbi White Darks (a phenomenal singer hailing from Kansas City, Mo., who along with her sister Tommi helped to round out the vocally rich soprano section of The Company) explained "there is a law for confession, you just say what God has said, speak the word". Donald put this practice to good use by asking members of the audience to declare promises contained in the scriptures.
The Company went on to minister "The Blessing Is On You". Chicago favorite Kim McFarland-Anderson carried the audience to higher heights as she declared that God will cause us to prosper despite recession, oppression and inflation because the Blessing of the Lord is upon us. God's presence permeated the room as Donald stood on stage and led the audience in worship as they sang aloud in one voice verses from "The Blessing of Abraham".
Donald went on to show his appreciation for the mastery writing skills of Pastor Marvin Winans by covering "Redeemed" (from The Winans' Let My People Go album). Lawrence has visited the house of Winans on previous recordings as a cover of another Winans' composition, "Long Time Comin'", is featured on The Murrills' debut project.
From there, The Company delivered "Lets Go Back to Eden and Live on Top of the World" featuring Floyd Wilkerson on lead vocals. The audience heartily embraced this song even as it came to a close, continually singing the refrain, living on top of the world.
A trio made up of Anita Wilson , Tobbi White Darks and Tommi White put an indelible signature on Derek (DOA) Allen's "Happy Being Me", which Donald Lawrence called a celebration of women and sisterhood. The Company also paid tribute to Richard Smallwood (who was in the audience) by covering" I've Got Something" (this world can't take away) led capably by Blanche McAllister Dykes. The highlight of the night was when Donald asked Vanessa Bell Armstrong to do a reprise of the vamp.
Hold on tight, because if the entire evening comes packaged in disc format, very soon. Worth the wait, for sure.
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