The Peacemakers filled the auditorium of the Lyric Theatre on Sunday night with powerful voices, and when they sang Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Jesus, they had the audience shouting "Amen."
Comprised of five retired career servicemen — four singers and a guitar player — The Peacemakers, from Radcliff, have been together seven years. "We like gospel, but we mix in the contemporary," said Gerald Brown, who serves as the group's manager.
The group was among the guests at a Gospel Celebration in honor of Black History Month. Others on the program included The Gates Family and The Disciples of Bethsaida from Bethsaida Baptist Church on Tates Creek Road.
"Roots of gospel music go way back to slave days. Slaves sang how they felt to make it through the hard times," said Jackie Blanton Jr., lead singer of the Disciples of Bethsaida.
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The Gospel Celebration was organized by Glenn Edwards, a retired military man who has an affinity for the genre. Gospel's roots have deep historic ties, he said.
"There's a lot of repetition in gospel," he said. "There were no hymnals. Most slaves could not read, so the lead singer would say the verse, and the congregation repeated it. Slaves were encouraged to sing because that way the slave masters could keep track of where they were in the fields."
The songs still have a deep meaning.
"Gospel brings out in song the struggles in our life and sheds a light on our relationship with God," Brown said. "When we sing, 'God has a way of working things out,' the words convey the message that when you try and don't succeed, don't give up. God is there with you. He will bring you through."
Even though the Gospel Celebration was sparsely attended, Edwards said he hopes it will become an annual event and draw a larger audience. Darryl Lawson also would like to see the celebration repeated next year.
"The acoustics in the Lyric are excellent for an event like this," he said. "With the Peacemakers, you could hear each voice, distinctly. The sound wasn't muddled. That says a lot for this auditorium."