Praise him with the sound of trumpets

As I was scrolling through the offerings at TDF a few weeks ago, I spotted a performance by the McCollough Sons of Thunder Brass Band. Hmmm, I thought I remembered my old friend Michael Cogswell mentioning to me that I ought to check them out. Actually, what he told me was that if I was ever able to hear them, I should cancel everything I could be doing and hie myself hence at oncely.

The MSOT are a "shout" band, performing a form of ecstatic sacred music at the United House of Prayer for all People on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 125th St. Founded in 1919 by Bishop "Sweet Daddy" Grace, there are now 134 branches of the United House of Prayer around the country, but the mother church is the one on FDB and 125th—and it’s the one with the McCollough Sons of Thunder, who perform during services on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings. Somehow, I had never quite made the pilgrimage to the mother church, but a chance to see them at Baruch College? That I could manage.

The concert was scheduled for 7:30pm, but as that hour approached, the stage manager announced that it would start later for unspecified reasons. It turned out that the van containing the MSOT had had an accident driving back from a performance at the United House of Prayer in North Carolina. Elder Edward Babb, who founded the McCollough Sons of Thunder and leads the band, informed us of this matter of factly when he took the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen, some of our members are at the hospital right now. By the grace of God, they will be well and they may join us before the evening is through."

Instead of the usual line up of seven trombones, a Sousaphone, euphonium, a trumpet, two drums, two cymbals, and two tambourines, Elder Babb had two trombones, a euphonium, a snare drummer, and a bass drummer. Michael leaned over and whispered, "I don't know how they're going to pull this off."

He needn't have worried. The band was lean, but they were there to testify. Elder Babb named a song, set the beat, and played the first chorus or two, getting everybody in the groove, and then clapped, stomped, and exhorted the crowd to >feel it. Did we ever!

Before the third song, Elder Babb's son joined the band, taking over the euphonium, so that the gentleman who had been playing it could add another trombone to the choir. I can't imagine what the full strength Sons of Thunder sounds like, but you probably haven't ever heard anything like the sound of this band. Elder Babb is the star. He has an intensely voval trombone style and when he points that thing your way, watch out! You can actually feel your ribcage rattle from the sonic energy. Elder Babb is phenomenally charismatic and he carefully hung his suit jacket up before grabbing his tromnone and dashing into the audience running up and down the aisles exhorting people to "Feelit! Show me you get it!"

By the end of the show, he had the entire house on its feet, waving its hands, and dancing like crazy—no small feat in too-cool for school NYC. At the end of the evening, I felt besotted with sound. I was buzzed. I was exalted.

And I was thinking that a Tuesday night trip to the mother church was definitely in order.

You have got to see these guys.