"That old-time religion" was worshipped by thousands Saturday at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in a five-hour marathon jointly sponsored by WYCB-AM and the National Park Service. It was hosted by on-air personalities Petey Green, Jacqueline Gales and Madame Lucille Banks Robinson Miller. Featuring over 40 groups, the free Youth Gospel Festival '81 ran the gamut from versified recitation to fashion show, solo vocal effort to choirs 50-strong, raw, thumping blues-flavored piano accompaniment to the voice-cracking innocence of youthful vocal chords.
Tanya Davis, handling Mahalialike dips and quavers with ease, delivered "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" in an ample voice that went around corners and returned. Another striking voice, that of one of the Angels of Harmony, had a gravelly hum and a shout that was akin to the timbre of Bessie Johnson, a recording great of the '20s. The all-female V&W Ensemble had the congregation clapping in time to the pulsating "Jesus Can Work It Out." Organist, drummer and electric bassist were driving hard when a trumpet cut through the mast sound, heraldic and like a voice from on high. It was one of those moments, and near pandemonium prevailed as many in the audience came to their feet and cheered. Other highlights were the gospel lift of James Washington's beautiful tenor voice and the resourceful and moving solo statements of two gifted young flutists, Deborah Bailey and Charlie Gatewood.