The auditions for BET’s “Sunday Best” program on Saturday brought joy to contestants moving on to the upcoming televised rounds in Atlanta and disappointment to those eliminated.


The auditions took place at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis for season five of the gospel singing competition. About 2,100 singers began lining up for auditions as early as Friday morning, wrapped in blankets. In addition to St. Louis, singers came from Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Memphis, Detroit and other cities for a chance to be the next “Sunday Best.”


The current title holder is season four winner Amber Bullock of St. Louis, who served as a preliminary judge Saturday before contestants were seen by TV judges and gospel music stars Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Kim Burrell.


“It’s crazy to be on the other side of the table,” said Bullock. “And St. Louis isn’t letting me down.”


But Bullock and others were surprised by the elimination of Leslie Johnson, 44, considered one of St. Louis’ most technically perfect gospel singers. Johnson made it through two preliminary rounds but was cut by judges near day’s end.


McClurkin critiqued Johnson unfavorably. Johnson figured the show is looking for a particular type and that his singing probably isn’t “black enough” for “Sunday Best.”


“I’m comfortable with what I do, and I know I’m blessing people,” said Johnson.


One BET staffer was overheard saying many of the contestants who sailed through preliminary rounds crashed and burned in front of the TV judges.


Adams, McClurkin and Burrell were unbending when it came to honesty in their critiques.


Adams told one singer she was a good TV personality but she wasn’t connecting with the song, and hated the way she sang the word “salvation.”


McClurkin told one singer “that was bad. That was really bad,” questioned another singer for starting at the top of her range, and said another singer’s pitch was all over the place. On the flip side, McClurkin thought one singer was so good he exclaimed: “Don’t sing another word!”


Karen Hylton and Herman Gordon, gospel singers also known on St. Louis’ theater circuit, got bad news earlier in the day when they were cut. Hylton, 48, said “I felt I did my best to glorify him. That’s always my goal. It is what it is.” Gordon, 45, added “I was a little disappointed, but I know God has something more for me.”


But the news was much happier for Michael Lampkin, 28, who is Bullock’s pastor and considered by Bullock to be the best singer in the world. Lampkin, who was nervous at the audition, got three yes votes.


“I wasn’t thinking I would go this far. I was thinking whatever happens, happens,” said Lampkin, who performed “Faith That Conquers.” “I thought at least one of the judges would say no.”


The news was also good for Corey Barrett, 31, St. Louis, after he performed “It is Well” for the judges, though Adams gave him a no. “I thought ‘Oh God, it’s over,’” he said. The other judges gave him their thumbs up. “I’m still in shock because I thought it was downhill from there.”


“Sunday Best” host and Gospel music star Kirk Franklin, who filmed segments with winners and losers after their auditions, said, “I love the spirit here. The way the church and community opened up their hearts is wonderful.”


Friendly Temple senior pastor Michael Jones said “we’re obviously so proud as a church to see the ourpouring here, the response. It encourages us, and we look forward to doing it again.”

 article courtesy of The

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