On Saturday, August 31, 2013, Ricky Dillard and New Generation (New G) celebrated their 25th year anniversary with a concert and live recording. The ticketed event was held at New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson IL, just outside of Chicago. The 2500 seat auditorium was almost filled to capacity but the chairs were barely used. Every song coupled with Dillard’s signature back bends while directing, compelled you to get on your feet and stay! With sopranos hitting notes that could blow the horns off a bull, altos that never fail and a unique tenor section, it was an evening of continuous hand clapping, “Holy-Ghost” dancing and good ol’ church music.
B.E.T.’s Dr. Bobby Jones told me, “Ricky’s unique directing style, a vibrating tone, especially from his tenor section, the choir’s animation and the way they present their music is signature. It’s so exciting!”
It may be hard to find a black church that doesn’t have at least one Ricky Dillard song in its repertoire. Dillard’s tunes continue to top gospel music charts. After 25 years, they still encourage Christians young and old and maintain their legacy of epic sound, high energy and controlled vibrato. Saturday’s recording was headlined by Anita Wilson with her funky and highly favored rendition of “Jesus Will.” Dr. Bobby Jones hosted, telling the audience his theory behind Dillard’s directing antics, “Every move is a different praise to God.” Approximately 175 current and former singers dressed in black and silver entered the choir stand and sang more than 20 songs. Special performances were given by Byron Cage and Sunday’s Best, LeAndria Johnson. Gospel music lovers heard favorites like “Talk it Over with Jesus”, “More Abundantly”, “There is No Way” and the group’s latest hit, “God is Great.” Something new to look out for is a track entitled “Grace.”
“They did what New G is known for. There’s certain things you’re gonna get from a Ricky Dillard concert and they accomplished that hands down,” said Walt Whitman, Founder and Director of the Soul Children of Chicago.
The highlight of the evening was a song written and led by Tiff Joy of Chicago. It had Donald Lawrence leaping, LeAndria Johnson bowing before the Lord and the room frozen. The title speaks for itself, ‘You’re Amazing”, but the vamp is what had everyone in awe. Tiff Joy ad-libbed various scripture for several minutes, detailing the miracles of God and His amazing power. Each time we thought the choir was out of breath and the song was over, Tiff Joy would scream “the Biii-ble says”, then even more scripture poured from her lips. Personally, this is my favorite song of the year. Another high point was what Dillard called his “shout song” for the record, entitled “Everything”. This sparked a tambourine and Holy-Ghost two-stepping thunderstorm. The room was so full of praise, it had former lead vocalist Valerie Griffin literally spinning in her electric wheelchair! Dillard and some of the tenors huddled in a group dance and the entire sanctuary was caught up praising God.
Special guests not on program but in the audience included Bishop Carlton Pearson, James Hall, Mark Hubbard, B Chase Williams, Lexi from the Word Network, Wes Morgan and Dexter Walker of Zion Movement, winners of Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound 2012 choir competition. Lady Gaga’s Music Director Joe “Flip” Wilson also had a seat in the house along with many pastors, radio personalities and other local artists present.What you may not see on the DVD recording is a very emotional tribute to one of Dillard’s mentors, Tyrone Block of Chicago’s legendary Thompson Community Singers (The Tommys). Dillard became lost in tears describing how much Block supported him during the early part of his musical career. Dillard also praised Father Charles G. Hayes of Chicago’s Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer & The Warriors, calling him “The Seed Planter.” Both Block and Father Hayes were presented awards during this tribute.
Following the nearly four-hour recording where attendees screamed for even more selections, Dillard shared some lessons with me: “In 25 years, I’ve learned if you want people to follow you, you gotta be honest, you gotta be true and upfront, even in business decisions.” His inspiration is seeing many pastors, choir leaders, award-winning singers and musicians that were birthed through New G succeed.
Tony Coleman, lead singer and member for 17 years told me worship always comes first with New G. “We’ve been tardy making it inside the sanctuary or auditorium because the Glory of the Lord showed up before we left the prayer circle backstage, Coleman said.
Dillard, a native of suburban Chicago Heights started directing the church choir at 5-years-old. He founded New G in 1988. They’ve performed around the globe, most notably singing at the Vatican in Rome. New G has recorded eight albums, won four Stellar Awards, one Dove Award and are three time Grammy nominees.
The 25th Anniversary C.D. is produced by Rick Robinson and expected to be released this fall.