Rod Sturgis, from left, Alberta Matthews and Patrick Sturgis sit inside Bethel A.M.E. Church Thursday afternoon. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)
Rod Sturgis, from left, Alberta Matthews and Patrick Sturgis sit inside Bethel A.M.E. Church Thursday afternoon. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Bethel’s famous choir in concert again

Published 10:35am Friday, July 18, 2014

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Young Adult Choir that captivated the nation’s gospel scene in the late 1970s and early ’80s with musical prodigy Patrick Sturgis will reunite Saturday as part of the church’s 150th anniversary celebration.

The concert, featuring members of the choir founded in 1977 by Melissa Demby and longtime church pianist Bertha Wade, begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the church at 805 Monroe St., said Sturgis, who is now a professional musician in San Francisco.

“I did my first solo here. I remember being nervous and standing in the back,” said Sturgis, who is Wade’s grandson.

His talents have taken him around the world. When he was 8, he began performing in New York and Washington D.C. His scrapbook features photos of him with Sen. Ted Kennedy and press clippings including a 1977 New York Times feature that describes him as “the 8-year-old with a voice of amazing power and range.”

As an adult he’s toured with Harry Connick Jr. and been featured on multiple soul, gospel and R&B albums.

His brother, Rod, kept his musical talents closer to home, said their aunt Alberta Matthews, who was director for the Young Adult Choir.

“Rodrick fought it for years. Then one day it hit him,” Matthews said.

It was almost inevitable, she said.

“My mother, they say, gave birth to a choir,” said Matthews, who is Wade’s daughter.

After being bitten by the proverbial musical bug Rod Sturgis became a choir director at Bethel about six months ago.

“My whole family sang in the church. This is where it all started,” Rod Sturgis said.

He’s also studying education administration at Jackson State University. The Sturgis’ parents are Patricia and Thomas Sturgis.

Former members from across the country have said they plan to sing in the concert, and the crowd is expected to fill the sanctuary.

“Hopefully we can get about 200 people,” Rod Sturgis said.

The Young Adult Choir disbanded about 20 years ago, but Rod Sturgis said he hopes he can revive the tradition started in part by his grandmother.

Wade died in July 2003.

Celebration of Bethel’s 150th anniversary continues Aug. 16 as the church presents the second part of a documentary on its history.

Editor's Picks