Photo by Jennifer Taylor
On Saturday, December 15, Carnegie Hall presented A Night of Inspiration to a sold-out audience, filling Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage with an evening of powerful and uplifting music. Under the direction of acclaimed producer, composer, and music director Ray Chew and co-producer Vivian Scott Chew his wife and business partner. The captivating program featured Lukas and Katia Bartunek, Regina Belle, Shirley Caesar, Travis Greene, J.J. Hairston, Koryn Hawthorne, Adrienne Bailon Houghton, Israel Houghton, Kenny Lattimore, Ledisi, Kamri Peterson, Cantor Azi Schwartz, Richard Smallwood, Iyanla Vanzant, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Bebe Winans and The String Queens, accompanied by a 64-piece orchestra and a 150 voice multi-cultural mass choir. The all-star roster performed beloved songs including “Every Praise,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Hallelujah,” “Oh Love,” “Better,” and so much more.
The theme of this year’s staging of the event could not have been more prescient – “A Night of Inspiration.” And indeed, it was. With social media aflutter, thousands of guests came out to support the annual musical valentine to acknowledge the best in the industry.
Top Billboard gospel artist, Koryn Hawthorne, and Travis Greene captured the audience with their musical and harmonic voices. But it was “The Blood Still Works” by JJ Hairston that transformed the auditorium into a Sunday morning Holy Ghost filled church service.
"My Lord! I have never been to a show of this magnitude where you feel God... this is the real deal." A guest exclaimed during the show.
Soulful and R&B hitmakers Regina Belle, Ledisi, and Kenny Lattimore also showed up and showed out. Husband and wife Israel and Adrienne Houghton performed the beautifully composed “I’m With You/Be Still” and looked great while doing it.
Other show-stopping performances came from Gospel Royalties Shirley Caesar, Bebe Winans, Hezekiah Walker, and Richard Smallwood. Emerging operatic soprano, Jessie Downs, Jenna Downs, Patricio Molina, and Azi Schwartz all gave equally profound performances that had patrons at the edge of their seats.
Joining the line up of splendid performances for the night was Lukas and Katia Bartunek and Kamri Peterson who blessed the house with inspirational, moving dance pieces. The String Queens also delivered with the string instruments that acted as the right layering for an inspirational monologue by Iyanla Vanzant.
“It was a pleasure and an honor to lead a group of world renown artists on the great stage of Carnegie Hall to perform inspired music, dance and spoken word. Vivian and I are appreciative for the wonderful responses that we’ve received from those in attendance and those that were seeking to attend the sold out concert. Thank you to our supporters and the staff at Carnegie Hall. We look forward to our next Night of Inspiration.” – Ray Chew
Carnegie Hall’s rewarding collaboration with Ray and Vivian Chew began nearly a decade ago in 2009, when Ray served as Musical Director for two concerts during Carnegie Hall’s festival, Honor!, celebrating the African-American cultural legacy with artists spanning blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, soul, and beyond. The duo went on to present two A Night of Inspiration productions in 2010 and 2016 to packed audiences featuring a large-scale orchestra joined by high profile artists from the gospel and secular communities. Other notable performances at Carnegie Hall throughout the years include A Tribute to Motown, paying homage to the distinctive soul sound of the legendary record labels over 50-year legacy. A one-of-a-kind participatory concert featuring gospel music’s biggest stars, Donnie McClurkin and Kim Burrell; The Music of Stevie Wonder. A sing-a-long performance honoring the iconic performer’s beloved songbook featuring R&B stars Leela James and BeBe Winans; and Sounds of Change, featuring a stellar cast of artists performing folk songs and R&B classics that defined a generation, as part of Carnegie Hall’s citywide festival The ‘60s: The Years that Changed America.