The Musical Birthday Celebration for E. Larry McDuffie got under way on Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 5pm at St. John Baptist Church where the Rev. George P. Lee III is Pastor. The sanctuary was filled to capacity from the lower level to the balcony as friends and family came from as far away as Washington D.C., Richmond, Virgina, North and South Carolina to celebrate the 80th birthday of a man so many obviously loved and held so dear.
The evening began with prayer and scripture reading, and for the next three hours, the night was magical, entertaining, comical, heartfelt and powerfully anointed. Although Bro. McDuffie does not actually turn 80 until Wednesday the 14th, his birthday celebration on this past Sunday set the tone for reflection on just how much he is loved and adored.
I had not met Bro. McDuffie before the celebration, and to my pleasant surprise, I found myself being swept away with amazement in how animated he was as he danced about in joy and excitement in the Lord. For a man turning 80, he certainly put many of us “younger” hens and roosters to shame.
The night’s gala was hosted by McDuffie’s God-son, Eric Brack, who in his own right is a great MC, musician, singer and songwriter. “I Won’t Complain” was the first song of the night, sung by McDuffie’s nephew, Timothy McDuffie after we heard words of appreciation from McDuffie’s sister and brother-in-law, Bro. and Sis. Brown
The night would not have been complete if E. Larry had not taken the opportunity to sing just one more time with his big sister, Violet Darlington and members of The Savannah Community Choir. While members of The Rosebud Gospel Singers took us back with “Mary Don’t You Weep.”
McDuffie’s church family choir, ‘Men of Mighty Fortress’ sang of the light with “Joy In The Light, How The Light Shines,” before The Tribe Singers had nearly everyone rejoicing in a sort of an islandy style with “Bye Bye,” a request from the young at heart birthday boy himself. But the first of my three favorite moments of the night came when the combined choirs of the St. John Baptist Church along with The Tribe Singers rejoiced in song with “I Came To Tell You,” with lead vocals by none other than the Pastor of St. John himself, George P. Lee III, who didn’t sing, but sang.
Members of Mc- Duffie’s family traveled all the way from Richmond, Virginia to share by way of song; most of whom was near in age to E. Larry, yet sang with the strength and power of the vitality of youth. This certainly is one singing family, with members who have obviously all walked with Jesus for a very long time, if not for all of their lives.
A dear friend of McDuffie, Alderman Carol Bell stopped by to share words of endearment and how when she first met E. Larry, he was her choir director. Never has a mockingbird hummed so inspiringly as did soloist Sis. Jeanette when she inspired us to worship. Debuting his latest creation: “My Soul’s Been Anchored I’ll Stand For I Believe,” the Master of Ceremony, singer, songwriter Eric Brack unveiled his new group: ‘UnMerited Favor.’
“Only What You Do For Christ Will Last” and “To God Be The Glory” by way of song was how Sis. C. Blake chose to bless the Honoree of the night; and as every performance before, there was no one standing to applaud with such glee as Bro. McDuffie himself. But, the second of my three favorite moments came with the dance/drama illustration of The Royal Ambassadors, a dramatic interpretation by a group of young lads illustrating the song “This Is My Season” by William Murphy. This was indeed a Kodak moment when every heart for sure was proud of these talented youngsters for using their gifts for the glory of the Lord.
However, the youngest performer of all stood only at about 3ft. Tall, T. Goldwire, a pint size approximately four year old songbird who took to the mic to bashfully honor E. Larry by singing “Well Done.” Choirs United of The Low Country from South Carolina brought the evening to a near end with a rendition of “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel.” We heard songs by Marvelous Miracles of Midway Georgia, Nicole Jefferson and JMS Ministries, before Booster Elliot Simmons closed out the evening; but not before the final of my three favorite moments: the powerfully moving and soul stirring performance of Melody Perkins that capped the night with a moment that somehow took us back to the pain and struggles of our ancestors and brought us right where we needed to be, at the feet of Jesus.
Never have I been so encouraged, inspired, in awe and so powerfully motivated at a single birthday celebration as I was at the 80th birthday celebration of E. Larry McDuffie. Being that today is Wednesday, December 14th, on behalf of The Savannah Tribune, I want to wish you E. Larry, a very joyous Happy Birthday and many, many more, at least another twenty.