HARLEM, Manhattan - Rev. Bobby Lewis is more musical than most pastors. In fact, the ensemble he started has backed Barbra Streisand at Madison Square Garden and appeared on national TV. He's a pillar of his community in Harlem, yet those who sing with him say his humility is greater than his talent.
"My value is not in my voice," he said. "My value is allowing God to fill me with purpose, and that purpose is infectious."
Those who perform with him say Lewis is just an honest, genuine person who always makes a joyful noise. Singer Tanesha Gary calls him a great leader.
Originally, he had hoped to make it on Broadway, and he did perform on cruise ships in the 1990s. But 20 years ago, he found his calling in church uptown. That's where he inspired folks like three time Grammy nominee Ryan Shaw.
"Our goal is to carry the spirit of Christ with us," Shaw said. "And so wherever we go, it becomes the church."
The chorus rings out on the campus of City College, where the Bobby Lewis Ensemble is rehearsing for an upcoming concert to mark the group's 20th anniversary.
"(It) means so much, because normally we do our concerts in smaller venues," he said.
His ensemble is based out of New Light Baptist Church in Harlem, but the pastor is looking to spread his message to those who are outside the congregation.
"When people hear the music, they are changed," he said. "It makes you know there is something special in me, and that's the jewel you go home with."
The 20th anniversary of The Bobby Lewis Ensemble will take place Saturday, November 18, at Aaron Davis Hall. Tickets are still available.
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