Gospel music fans are clearly a hearty bunch. They braved the rain, wind and frigid conditions at the Apopka Amphitheater where temperatures fell into the 40's to attend the Apopka Family, Food and Faith Festival, and although it wasn't in the name, music was king.
The first annual event co-sponsored by the Apopka Christian Ministerial Alliance and the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance braved the inclement weather conditions, and despite other events in Central Florida cancelling because of the rain and cold temperatures, the Festival pushed past in a strong showing of faith.
"You sat through the rain and the cold," said Ellis Feaster. "And now the payoff comes."
Feaster and his wife Hope (from radio station G106.3) co-hosted and emceed the event.
"Are you ready to get your praise on?" She asked the crowd as RJ4L took the stage.
"I’m waking up I see the light now
Now, in my heart I’m feeling hopeful-ful
Lord I thank you for your grace now
Cause it shines down"
RJ4L from the song "Live It Up"
RJ4L is an urban Christian pop group who warmed up the crowd with several songs from their LP "Limitless". The Kissimmee trio's smooth style and thought-provoking lyrics led the way for a strong slate of musical talent.
"It was a great experience to be up there sharing our music and our hearts," they said after their performance. "We will go wherever doors open for us, and we are glad it was in Apopka."
As smooth as RJ4L was, Benjah contrasted it with a raw, powerful energy that lit the audience on fire...
"Every day’s a gift just take it as it comes
Embrace it through the mist
Wether rain or sun
Every day’s a gift
You got air up in your lungs
Be grateful rain or sun."
Benjah from the song "Never Quit"
Benjamin "Benjah" Thom, who goes by the stage name Benjah, is a Christian music writer, producer, engineer, and artist, who primarily works within Urban Contemporary Gospel, Hip Hop, Pop, and Reggae music. He is a Grammy-nominated performer and DOVE award winner for song writing. He graduated from the Full Sail University in Winter Park and lives in Orlando.
"God put a dream in my heart, and he gave me the drive to fulfill it," he said from the stage. "Never give up!"
His fans stood up from their seats, danced, cheered, sang along and surrounded the stage. By the end of his performance, Benjah jumped into the crowd and sang to a Festival audience from his current album "Woke".
And as raw and powerful as Benjah was, Sisaundra Lewis contrasted that with a polished, sweet, world class Grammy award-winning voice.
Lewis, born in Haines City, rose to stardom and gained global recognition after delivering show stopping, electrifying performances on Season Six of NBC’s ‘The Voice!’ She started her career with Grammy and Oscar Award winner Peabo Bryson, who invited her to tour the world with him as a backing vocalist and his new duet partner. Her acquaintance with Bryson led to a worldwide tour with Grammy and Oscar Award winner Celine Dion. She spent several years working with Dion as her backing vocalist, vocal director and choreographer.
"It took a lot for a country girl to step on the stage, but God will give you the strength, " she told the audience from the stage. "I'm praying for you all in 2017, but remember you have to be faithful."
Local Apopka performers Jimmy Siberio, Teki Dericho and The Apopka Mass Choir closed out the Festival.
Siberio sang a beautiful ballad in Spanish, and Dericho mixed her talent for singing and inspiration.
"It was awesome," Dericho said after her performance. Anytime you're in the presence of God, it's just awesome. Did you see how the sun broke from the clouds just as I began to sing? I knew then this wasn't about me. It was about God."