Monday, December 24, 2007

Vocals and keyboard: Midnight Mass

Brother Lee and Jillian playing

Segment on Brother Lee and Jillian

Jillian's interview old school Concretebeat style

Brother Lee's interview old school Concretebeat style

Merry Christmas from Concretebeat. Enjoy the gospel stylings of Brother Lee and Gillian Bennett.

Artists: Brother Lee, Jillian Bennett
Medium: Vocals, keyboard
Location: West Fourth Street Station

It was one-thirty on a Sunday. Traffic in New York’s West Fourth Street station was low and, for my part, I was just getting over a cold and just wanted to get home. When I heard Brother Lee and Jillian, though, I knew I had to turn on the camera and for nearly half an hour I filmed the duo’s non-stop, freestyle gospel.

Brother Lee and Jillian are two of a kind. Both converted to Christianity in their 20s and have decided to share their experience through joyful street performance. Like street performers who make their stage wherever they are, this pair considers whichever ground on which they sing their church and bring the energy of a full choir to the subway.

A native Brooklynite, Brother Lee is a software consultant for Fortune 500 companies. An ex-Marine, the GI Bill allowed Lee to attend college where he majored in Computer Science. He then pursued an MBA in Finance but when the market collapsed he left the program to teach and ultimately ended up consulting. You might ask how a seemingly straight laced guy comes to be singing in the subway.

Brother Lee has been singing and playing the piano in churches since he was about eight. Even so, he says he wasn’t religious until he was saved by “a couple of champions” when he was in the Marines. Lee’s ensuing religious devotion convinced him to become active in his faith and, recalling the Bible’s call to “go among the hedges and highways” took his evangelical singing to the subway.

Like Brother Lee, Jillian was converted to Christianity by “a champion” but other than that she has a very different story. Jillian started off in Maine but, after playing Peter Pan in a school play, her passion for performance took her to the exclusive Walnut Hill School, an art high school in Boston.

Although the school was rigorous, with professors drawn from Harvard and the top of the performance field, Jillian excelled. But much of Jillian’s success is due to her bold spirit. On the day of her graduation rehearsal, for example, Jillian snuck out to audition for Boston Pop Idol. While everyone at the school was sitting around wondering where Jillian was, she was busy making her way on to the next day’s Boston Globe (so if Jillian looks familiar maybe she is). Although she didn’t win the contest Jillian did not give up and, with the encouragement of her peers and fans, rented a PA from a street performer and busked for money so that she could attend the 2005 American Idol auditions in Washington, D.C. Of the thousands of people who attended, Jillian was one of the rare gems who actually made it on TV and into the Washington Post (so if Jillian looks familiar, maybe she is). While Jillian did not make it to L.A. she not disheartened and, in retrospect, is thankful. After returning to Boston, Jillian was invited to sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park (so if Jillian looks familiar, maybe she is) and it was on the commute to the ballpark that she was first introduced to her new faith. Now Jillian is thankful that she has found something which grounds her so that when fame does come she won’t be “so caught up in vain glory” and lose her way like celebrities such at Britney Spears.

Brother Lee and Jillian are committed to their faith and have hopes of starting their own church someday but the two are also committed music and are happy to play secular music at secular locations. But most of all they enjoy playing in the subway. Perhaps Brother Lee puts it best: “When you know the lord you know it’s not about you, it’s about people, because God made people. And God made people for us to enjoy. We are to enjoy one another…I love God first, and God says, in the word, to do like Jesus did…and touch people…and it could be about yourself to do that.”

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jaysarenooo said...

hi my name is meagan and jillian is actually my cousin. I have lost contact with her, and i would love to speak with her. if you happen to run into her again please notify me or her rather. My email address is, and my number is 603-501-0435, Tell her that I am proud of her and hope she is doing well. thank you sooo much for your time.

Kitty said...

Someone find the video of Jillian on American Idol! Very curious to see it and I looked everywhere to no avail.

Anonymous said...

Yeah why is it not on Youtube? She was so cute on American Idol! But what's with the accent and everything? Look what you did to this girl Simon! >:(

pH said...

vainglory is 1 word...

viagra online said...

What great information, I think that the video is really good, I love this kind of music, that are really cool!I am going to sing my favorite song! I am on the rock and then I check a stock
I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live
I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion!!!

Anonymous said...

Please tell me they're not dating.

generic viagra news said...

yes agree, she is really cute, I was searching the video on you tube, but it is not there, I think this should be on you tube for everyone...

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