Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Memory of Gospel of Colonus

3/16/09 Update - Had a rough week, needed a little touch-up. The DVD still rocks the house: love the part where Oedipus is trying to sing his way into Colonus.

10/17/2008 Update
- Hell must have have froze over because WNET and PBS are releasing the DVD of the Philadelphia performance. By the time you read this I will have pre-ordered my copy from and will be dogging the UPS guy something fierce. Thanks so much to Ivan in Jersey for the head's up.

The following is my original post on the play. Sadly the YouTube link is history but hey, do the right thing and buy the DVD.

PBS Great Performances aired this play twice about 20+ years ago. It was an Off-Broadway play and a recording was made of one of the performances. For those that saw the play it invokes passion. Mr. Morgan Freeman is lyrical to the Nth degree as the Narrator.

Let me repeat this, this is a drama set to music based on the Greek story of Oedipus. It is not a gospel play. But this production had members of the Blind Boys of Alabama, J.J. Farley, Jevetta Steel, Sam Butler, Robert Earl Jones (with that wonderful voice) and a chorus that is just amazing.

In this selection, our man Oedipus has arrived at Colonus. He is petitioning for temporary residency. The locals are hesitant. These are the opening negotiations.

For those of you who have seen any version of the play I'm sorry to tell you that there is no legal DVD or VHS copy available. Even the bootleg action is kinda shaky. Um, not that I would know about that kind of thing.

I don't. Really. I got nothing for you. I checked the Great Performances' web site and in the FAQ they state that due to the cost of paying for clearances for the music and the performers there is no way for them to release it for sale.

PBS has no current plans to re-air the program. And after 20+ years I don't think they are about to budge on this point. Not that it hasn't stopped at bunch of you from asking. Myself included. But seriously, if they want to make some money re-run this at pledge time.

PBS said that a cast album is available on You can hear other samples from the performance. I'm sure quiet a few folks have it on VHS tape in their closet from the original on air recording. Be very, very nice to those people.

And for the low life SOB that has taken another person's copy and didn't give it back a pox upon your soul.

Other Resources:


  1. Ivan from Jersey10/17/2008 10:48 AM

    Guess what? A DVD of The Gospel at Colonus will be released by Great Performances/WNET on November 18, 2008. See Amazon or the DVD outlet of your choice for details and pre-release order info!

  2. Ivan, sweetie are you toying with my heart? If this is true I'll never say another bad word about Jersey drivers for the rest of the...month.

    Oh, my god, it is true. I'm pre-ordering right now.

    Bless you. Seriously. I've have wanted this for a very long time.
    Let me update the post with haste!

  3. OH MY GAWD!! I recorded this performance on video back in 1985, and accidentally recorded over the first half of it a few years later.

    Since I destroyed part of my recording I would periodically check the internet to see if it was ever re-released.

    I happened to be watching BET's "Sunday Best" show (their version of American Idol)...and an older lady auditioned and her face and voice looked so familiar. When they gave her name (Carolyn Johnson-White) came to me that it was the vocalist that sang "Lift Him Up" in The Gospel at Colonus.

    This made me dig out my old video...and I was still mesmerized & giddy even after over 20 something years.

    Naturally...this morning I do a google search...and to my surprise, when I enter "The Gospel at Colonus"...LOW & BEHOLD it is now available on DVD. Do I have to say that it is ALREADY ORDERED!!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for releasing this treasure!!!!!

  4. God Bless! My family was in that play one of the Creon kidnappers {the one with the mustache}, some of the chorus including the one who sings lift him up. I actually was in the play recently myself, we still have the original tape from when it was aired! I love the play, especially the songs and i learned every single one and i'm only 13!

  5. Thank you for letting me know that! Wow, I'm glad that your family let you see the play and their history in the performances.

    It took a long time but I hope that more people will tell others to see the play and have discussions about the various topics it brings up like living with mistakes, redemption of spirit and stuff like that.

    Hey tell your friend that if they don't know what to give their moms and grand folks for Xmas this is a instant "get out of trouble" DVD.

    Just kidding. But not by much.

  6. Net flx has the Gospel DVD avail for rent. I hope I can burn a copy