Boutte gospel group energizes Jazz Fest crowd with inspirational songs
Vocalists, Arnold Ray Jones, Colette Green DeLeon, Robert Lumar and Diana Solomon belted out Gospel songs in front of a packed crowd in the Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest on Friday, May 2.
The group, which has been going strong for nearly 37 years, has become a Jazz Fest staple and has performed at the event every year since 1996.
David Diggs, founding member of the Gospel Inspirations of Boutte, called this year’s performance special because of the large crowd that flocked to the area on Friday.
“I couldn’t believe how good it was. Oh Lord it was full. The Gospel Tent stayed full all day from when we first came on that morning until we left,” he said. “People were warm and receptive and I felt like I was floating.”
Following the show, Diggs said the band was mobbed by fans.“After it was over a lot of people were coming up and asking for autographs. I’ve sang in the opening slot before, this time it was full from the beginning and that was something I had never seen before,” he said.
The annual Jazz Fest show has become the group’s biggest performance of the year and the Gospel Inspirations of Boutte make sure to prepare for it all year.
“In June we are going to start getting ready for next year,” Diggs said.
Part of the planning involves playing a number of large shows locally and maintaining a busy touring schedule. The Gospel Inspirations of Boutte are booked most weekends throughout the year. In fact, the band is currently booked for the next three months straight.
“We are singing every weekend. It’s like that up until August. We are singing every weekend and we are traveling up to Lafayette, Lake Charles and Port Arthur, Texas and doing a lot of traveling around Louisiana,” Diggs said.
Despite a busy schedule, Diggs said every show is different and given the vast number of songs they know they gauge the feeling of the crowd before deciding which tune to launch into next.
“We don’t ever go out with a set song we are going to sing,” Diggs said. “Every crowd brings a different feeling and you try to connect with the audience.”
The group first formed after the choir at Mt. Zion Church in Boutte grew too popular.
“We were all going to Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the church schedule was heavy and we broke the church choir into a quartet and started traveling like that so we could make a lot of programs. We just kept it going like that and never stopped,” Diggs said.
Now, 36 years later, the Gospel Inspirations of Boutte have continued to travel across the country and have had a revolving cast of musicians play with them throughout the years.
“I think we have had close to 50 or 60 members. Some of them passed away and then others moved away, but we kept the heart of the group together,” Diggs said.
However, Diggs said the current lineup has stayed consistent for about a decade.
The current groups consists of Diggs on bass guitar, vocalist Robert Lumar, vocalist Colette Green DeLeon, vocalist Arnold Ray Jones, background singer Diana Solomon, guitarist Willie Tee, lead guitarist Joseph Glaireld Lemeiux, keyboardist Myla Bocage, percussionist and background vocalist Howard Callaway and keyboardist, organist and background vocalist J.J. Patterson.
“I am retired, but most of the group works in the chemical plants,” Diggs said. “Colette is in human resources at the School Board. The other guys are in plants from Monsanto to OxyChem. One is a teacher from over the river and J.J. teaches in Houma.”
Despite their success, Diggs said the group has stayed close to their roots.
“It has been the grace of God and everybody in the group has a love for one another and a strong passions for what we do,” he said. “For everyone of us it is the relationship with God we have. Not everyone goes to the same church and not everyone is Baptist, but there has been a strong togetherness in the group. We look out for one another and we are always there for one another.”
In 1996 the group released their only album to date called “Yes He’s Coming Again.” However, they have plans to record a live album at Antioch Baptist Church in Des Allemands on May 30 and are opening the audience up to anyone who would like to attend.
For more information on the Gospel Inspirations of Boutte, Diggs can be reached at (504) 330-2311.
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