Formed 50 years ago, the Blue Gates of Harmony celebrated their 50th anniverary at Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church, 2036 Cecil B. Moore Ave., on Sunday. With 50 years of performing across the country as a gospel group, the members of the Blue Gates of Harmony sang at Macedonia in front of a large crowd gathered at the church, to celebrate their impact on gospel and various communities.
Arnold Parker, an original of the group since its founding, has been through the ups and downs of traveling and performing in Blue Gates of Harmony for each of the 50 years. From singing outside in various Philadelphia neighborhoods, to traveling to gigs across the country, Parker is proud to look back at the group’s journey and to celebrate this joyous occasion.
“It was me and a guy named Howard Quick and Jerry Johnson in the beginning — I’m the only original still with the group,” he said. “We were sitting out in the projects and decided to start a group. We were young boys in our early 20’s.”
In 1960 Parker was singing with a group in Virginia until he moved to Philadelphia where we formed the group with Johnson and Quick. After times of harmonizing together in front of different crowds, they began meeting new people and gaining new opportunities to sing.
“Musicians came in, and then we started branching out to church people and started doing different things,” Parker said. “People started asking us if we could come by and sing at churches, then we started recording and then we started traveling.”
The first place the Blue Gates of Harmony traveled to was New York. Parker reminisced singing songs they recorded like “Take Care of me Lord until I get Home,” — which they played at Macedonia during their celebration.
Singing mostly gospel with a bit of contemporary, Parker also reflected on what it was like to travel on the road.
“It was really hard — sleeping in and out of hotels is really tough,” he said. “Sometimes you get paid less than what you thought you were going to get paid — but that’s part of the life.”
As the Blue Gates of Harmony experienced the good times and the rough times on their exciting journey as musicians, Pastor Terry Oakman of the National Temple Baptist Church, remembers what it was like to grow up in admiration of the group in hopes of being like them one day.
“One of my cousins was a member and they’re more like a family group to us,” Pastor Oakman said. “The funny thing is, I’ve always grown up and wanted to sing with them — I haven’t quite made it yet.”
Pastor Oakman is a member of the Sensational Travelers, a gospel group that he’s been a part of for the last 14 years. He is pleased and proud to celebrate this milestone. The Sensational Travelers travel with Blue Gates of Harmony once a year to South Carolina and Oakman has always found them to be role models.
“They were one of the groups we mocked all the time; they kind of modeled for us what we wanted to be like,” he said. “Endurance is what really comes with it. When you have the passion for it you really become persistent with it. I’m sure their 50 years was not the easiest years but when you love something and take passion, not pride it in — it pays off.”
The crowd cheered the Blue Gates of Harmony on as they celebrated and took the stage at Macedonia.
“This is our 50th and we’re trying to enjoy today,” Parker said.