"By and By" is a grant-winning documentary about a powerful New Orleans gospel quartet, the Electrifying Crown Seekers - a group USA Today calls "the essence of Jazz Fest ... more explosive than any rock headliner." The group is led by an exceptional singer-guitarist, James Williams Sr, and their gig at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is consistently cited as one of the true hidden treasures of the Fest. But it's in the Crown Seekers' traditional quartet and church community the other 364 days of the year where "By and By" finds its story. The Crown Seekers are a family-based group that, after almost 50 years together, face an uncertain future in a post-Katrina environment. For local gospel quartets like the Crown Seekers, the post-Katrina rebound has stalled. Their base audience - the poorest of the 200,000 people displaced by the storm - didn't return; the venues the groups played were largely destroyed. And most important, the changing tastes of a younger generation -- more in tune with the sweeter sounds of choirs and praise and worship singing -- have left rough-edged groups like the Crown Seekers struggling. The generational differences are starkly represented by Mr. Williams' 25 year old son, Keith -- for years the group's only drummer. While raised within the quartet style of performance, Keith is equally enamored of choir, praise and worship, and modern celebrations of faith. In a classic story of change vs. tradition, young vs. old, Keith's decision - to continue with the Crown Seekers or seek his own path - will mean the difference between the continuation of the group and its dissolution; the continuing of his father's musical legacy, or its ending.
- Written by
Matthew T. Bowden
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