Powerful 'Praise': Man of the moment, Kevin Downswell (foreground) giving an encore performance after being named winner of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's Gospel Finals at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Sunday night, while the other contestant cheer him on. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
THE POWERFUL and prayerful entry aptly entitled Praise, written and performed by Kevin Downswell, held the number one position at the 2003 Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's Gospel Finals at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, Hope Road, St. Andrew on Sunday night.
The 22-year-old Downswell, a second-year Biochemistry student at the University of the West Indies, walked away with a $150,000 cash prize, the trophy and two Air Jamaica tickets to a destination of his choice. He also pocketed the prize for 'Best Performance'. After his compelling set it was only a question of who would be the runners-up.
The audience had no qualms with Kevin being named the winner. However, there were a few murmurs surrounding the selections of the second and third-place winners - Sandy Smith with Crazy and Kerron Ennis with No Wonder respectively. Smith took home $75,000, an Air Jamaica ticket to a destination of her choice and a trophy while Ennis got $50,000 and a trophy.
In the first presentation of the finalists, they did a cover of a song of their choice, before reappearing to deliver their original entry. Kevin rendered the popular His Eye Is On The Sparrow. He began singing from backstage in a solemn tone with lights off. Then, when it seemed as if that would be the pace for his presentation he switched gears and broke into a spirited praise and worship tempo.
Kevin, decked out in a full-white jacket suit, seemed to have saved the best for last. His rendition of his original entry Praise raised the roof at the open-air venue. He gave the audience encouraging words, telling them that their victory over any trial rests in their praise.
Second-place Sandy, who was seventh in the line-up of contestants, delivered a message to the body of Christ with an up tempo version of Wounded Soldier. The sweet Sandy, who was elegantly adorned in purple, received backing from a few persons who stood throughout her performance.
Sandy, who was baptised at age 12, subsequently returned and did her entry Crazy, a song that addressed her detractors who she says told her 'she was loco' to have given her life to Christ at such a tender age.
Soon to be 21 years old, Kerron Ennis had the crowd 'mashing up dem boot heel' with an effervescent cover of We Come Here to Praise Him. Most of the patrons stood to their feet and waved their rags in support of Ms Ennis. She also delivered well with her original entry, which spoke of the efficacious sacrifice of the only Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Other wonderful performances came from Shelly-Ann Watson, who is a member of the Shiloh Apostolic Church in Manchester. Her first delivery was Ordinary Servant which received an extraordinary reception from the audience. Armed with a beautiful voice and a heart of worship, she won the hearts of the patrons.
On another given Sunday, her original entry You've Got to Believe could have been named among the top three. The song for which she owns writer's credit had optimistic words that could soothe the hearts and minds of saints.
Female trio Remnant and male quartet Fountain Of Love received a raw deal from the technical staff at the show. At certain intervals, one member of each group could not be heard. This was especially evident whenever that said member sang alone.
The event, which climaxed just before 11:30 p.m., saw guest performances from Papa San, last year's winner Shane Wright, Noreta Lewis and a few others. The MCs, Jenny Jenny and Nadine Blair, did a superb job. The almost five and a half hours-long event could have been shorter but it still deserves two thumbs up.