A Blend of Cultures and Genres

The Hampton Gospel Sextet rehearsed together for the first time on Saturday for a show this Sunday. Members include, from left, Raphael Blandon, Barbara Person, John Lewis, Lorraine Allston, Diane Westbrook, and Ethel Riddick. Carrie Ann Salvi Photos

   Hugh W. Wyatt, a black Cherokee Indian and Sag Harbor resident, is preparing to “put the beauty and creativity of the world on display” at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater. The shows on Saturday and Sunday are in honor of Black History Month, and Mr. Wyatt feels that all of America’s musical genres have roots in gospel. Also celebrated will be the idea that “different cultures make beautiful music,” the producer and manager said.
    His goal is a new sound, blending world genres and cultural backgrounds, he explained at a rehearsal on Saturday. Mr. Wyatt believes that every country has its own art, music, and food that should be appreciated without dilution. “This is what the world is about,” he said, adding that racial prejudices would be reduced if people had a better understanding of other cultures.
    Claes Brondal, who with his Groove Gumbo Trio is part of the concerts, called music an international language, a common thread that is also a way of keeping the spirit going in difficult times.
    The singing “stars,” as selected by Mr. Wyatt for his Hamptons Gospel Sextet, include blacks, whites, Latinos, and Native Americans. He promised that Sunday’s 1 p.m. show would be “a stew” — “Amazing Grace,” for example, sung simultaneously in English and Spanish by Diane Westbrook and Raphael Blandon.
    The newly formed sextet includes the singers John Lewis, Lorraine Allston, and Ethel Riddick, and Barbara Person on piano. The group has come together from churches across the East End: Calvary Baptist Church in East Hampton, the First Baptist Churches of Southampton and Bridgehampton, the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church, and Vida Abundante of Wainscott. (The Rev. Cornelius Fulford of the Baptist Church in Cutchogue is also a member but will not be performing.) Mr. Wyatt has extended a hand to all churches, of all colors, that wish to be involved.
    Also performing Sunday will be the duo Good Sense, with Willie Fuentes and Mr. Blandon. Mr. Brondal, a drummer, will open the show as a duo with Bill Smith, a keyboardist. They will put a new spin on old-fashioned gospel favorites and provide backup for other acts as well. Mr. Brondal, originally from Denmark, has been in many international bands and teaches percussion.
    Paying tribute to traditional black music, Mr. Wyatt has booked the Persuasions, a well-known a cappella group, for Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m. They will split the show with Ray, Goodman, and Brown, known for their classic soul hits. Bryan Wilson, a gospel singer, will guest-star. At noon and 2 p.m. that day there will be something for children and the young at heart — a magic show featuring the clowns BeetleBum and Henry.
     As the first person of color to be a reporter at The New York Daily News, Mr. Wyatt had a distinguished career as an investigative journalist and music columnist. Formerly a musician himself, he played bass guitar for Gladys Knight and the Pips as a teenager and later in life shared a Grammy Award for his liner notes for an Art Blakey album, “New York Scene.”
     Activism and diversity have been important to Mr. Wyatt since his days as a reporter in the 1960s, which included covering the civil rights movement and antiwar protests. Among the civil rights organizations he is involved with is Clergy and Providers for Racial Healthcare Equality, of which he is chairman.
    Mr. Wyatt’s company, Hampton Venues, is a subsidiary of The Spiritual Herald, a national urban newspaper he edits and publishes. The paper is designed to address the needs and concerns of people across America’s religious spectrum through ministers, priests, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders.
    Tickets cost $42 each for Saturday’s shows, $25  for Sunday’s show, and $12 each for the magic shows. They are available online at hamptonsvenues. com or by calling 725-1780.