Cumberland Choral Arts, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and the Arts Council of Fayetteville Cumberland County are proud to present the second annual Lift Every Voice and Sing-A Musical Journey Through Black History. The concert will be presented via Live Stream on our YouTube channel, Cumberland Choral Arts, on February 20, 2021 at 7:00 p.m..

The cost will be $6.00 per view. Tickets will be available on our website as of Monday February 8, 2021. You may also connect for ticket purchase via a link on our Facebook Page, Cumberland Choral Arts. A percentage of viewing sales will be donated to Fayetteville Urban Ministries, Emergency Need Fund. You may provide additional donations via our website at

Lift Every Voice will take us on a journey through Classical/Opera, Jazz, and Sacred selections, to include Gospel, and Spirituals. This year’s performance will feature CCA members Brenda Vandervort, Mezzo Soprano, Corey Leak, Tenor, Chris Colon, and Ryan Pagels, Pianists.

The Concert will also feature Dr. Denise Murchison Payton, Soprano, Monique Butler McLeod, Soprano, and Ramelle Brooks, Bass, with special appearances by Cross Creek Chorale, Dr. Michael Martin, Artistic Director, and Joy Vandervort-Cobb, Actress/Director.

We invite you to join us for a moving celebration of Black History in America. Follow us for more information:
YouTube-Cumberland Choral arts

This project is supported by the Arts Council in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

Brenda Janine Vandervort - Brenda Janine Vandervort, Mezzo Soprano, was born and raised in Newburgh, NY, where she studied voice with Mrs. Grace Bowels, while attending Newburgh Free Academy. Brenda is an alumnus of Methodist University, where she studied Music.

While at Methodist, Brenda studied voice with Dr. Sue Snyder, and was a member of the Methodist University Scholarship Ensemble. She was also the second recipient of the Cumberland Oratorio Singers Award, and the first recipient of the Methodist University Hall of Fame award for outstanding achievement in the arts.

In 2000, Brenda returned to Newburgh, where she studied voice with Ms. Claudia Cummings. Upon her return, she was a principal with Festival theatre of New York, and The Opera Company of the Highlands. During her time with both companies, she performed the roles of: Carmen, Carmen Jones, Queenie (in Show Boat) and as part of the ensemble in “The Magic Flute”.

She also participated smaller productions such as Opera for Everyone, Operetta for Everyone, Joy to the World, and I hear America Singing. Brenda has been featured, on several occasions, as the Mezzo Soprano Soloist in Handel’s Messiah at West Point Military Academy.

Upon her return to North Carolina in 2008, Brenda became a member of Cumberland Oratorio Singers (now Cumberland Choral Arts), where she serves on the Board of Directors.

Since her return to Fayetteville, she has had the pleasure of being featured as the Mezzo Soprano Soloist in their production of Handel’s Messiah, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, and Mendelsohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Brenda was also the Mezzo Soprano for the Carolina Philharmonic’s production of Handel’s Messiah during its inaugural season. Lift Every Voice and Sing-A Musical Journey Through Black History was Brenda’s vision. After a successful show in 2020, she is excited to bring this to her community in 2021, with the help and support of the CCA board.

Corey Leak - MR. COREY LEAK, tenor, is currently the music teacher at Lucile Souders Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina where Ms. Rhonda McNatt is principal. A native of Harlem, New York, he began singing at the age of four in his home church, Travelers Rest Baptist Church.

At the age of 13, Mr. Leak started traveling and singing professionally with the Boys Choir of Harlem. He toured with the choir for five years performing across the United States, and other countries including Japan, China, Israel, Belgium, and Austria.

He has performed with a diverse group of music’s most distinguished and revered recording artists, ranging from Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder to Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Kathleen Battle.

Mr. Leak was a member of the cast of the Lion King, and has performed with the North Carolina Symphony, New York Symphony and Boston Symphony. He has been featured in several competitions including the National Association for Negro Musicians Soloists Competition, in which he won first place for Male Tenor Performance.

Mr. Leak is a graduate of the Choir Academy of Harlem, a performing arts high school, and holds the Bachelor of Arts degree in Music/Vocal Performance from Shaw University. Leak has completed additional studies in vocal performance at Indiana University, Boston University and Westminster Choir College.

He is a distinguished member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and former member of the University Choir at Shaw University under the direction of Dr. Lorneita Cornwall. He continues studying voice with Dr. Cornwall. He has also been a featured soloist at Bennett College, Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and the North Carolina Museum of History.

He also is a member of Watts Chapel Baptist Church and serves as the youth choice conductor at the historic Saint Paul’s A.M.E. Zion Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
His greatest joy is inspiring his students to enjoy all that music has to offer across many genres.

While at Lucile Souders, Leak has put on musical productions such as Annie, Motown Christmas and the Wiz.


Joy Vandervort-Cobb, currently Associate Artistic Director at PURE Theater in Charleston, SC, was the Associate Professor of African American Theatre and Performance at the College of Charleston for 25 years. Joy began her career in theatre more than 50 years ago as an actress with the Freedom Theatre in upstate New York.
Her directing credits include national tours of Jackie, Vi, & Lena; My Soul is a Witness; Black Broadway; MAHALIA; From the Mississippi Delta (first national); Dreamgirls; Purlie and for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.
Regionally, her work has included productions of the world premiere of Boston based playwright Patrick Gabridge's Chore Monkeys; OIL; Airline Highway; King Hedley II; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences.

She has also directed Stick Fly; Buzzer; By the Way Meet Vera Stark; Flyin' West; Long Time Since Yesterday; The Story; Some Girls; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Having Our Say; Wedding Band; C.O.T.O: Chocolate on the Outside; Funnyhouse of a Negro; Trouble in Mind; Blues for an Alabama Sky; Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches; The Colored Museum; Red, Hot & Cole; Gospel at Colonus; Hair; and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

She has served as Assistant Director on national tours of Little Shop of Horrors and One Mo’ Time and as production stage manager on national touring productions of Sophisticated Ladies (where she met her husband) and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

Joy, a Core Ensemble member with PURE Theatre in Charleston, SC, for the past nine years, recently performed the role of Esther in Randy Neale’s beautifully wrought take on the Detroit riots in 1967 in Last Rites, Cynthia in Lynn Nottage's Sweat, and the cantankerous but wise Scottie in Steven Dietz's This Random World.

Another favorite was the equally combative yet graceful Nina in Marco Ramirez's The Royale. At PURE Joy has done a host of roles in a variety of shows including the epic Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts 1, 2, and 3; Citizen: An American Lyric; Dolls House, Part 2; A Sudden Spontaneous Event; Vanya and Sonia and Masha, and Spike; The Birds; Doll’s House, Part 2; The Christians; a 16 person one- woman piece called No Child; and The Mountaintop, an imaginative retelling of the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life.

Prior to joining PURE, Joy was seen in her self-created MOMENTS OF JOY, a one woman show based on her life and experiences as a parent, wife, teacher, and Christian during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and an invited run in Baton Rouge, LA, at Louisiana State University's Department of Theatre.

Other roles include Polonius in Hamlet, the Soothsayer in Antony and Cleopatra, the melancholy Jaques in As You Like It, and Prospero in The Tempest as part of the Shakespeare Project in residence at the College of Charleston.

No stranger to "in pants" roles, Vandervort-Cobb has also played William in Kenneth Lonnergan’s Lobby Hero for the Stelle di Domani Festival during Spoleto in 2008.
A true lover of language, Joy waxed dramatic as Hecabe in Euripdes’ The Trojan Women on the mainstage at the College of Charleston and also in the inaugural V-DAY Celebration of The Vagina Monologues.

On television, she guest starred in the Emmy Award winning CBS series The Inspectors and played multiple characters over the years in the very popular Lifetime Channel/Touchstone Television series Army Wives, a beleaguered driver in a Savannah Auto Mile commercial and a very lucky homeowner in a national H.U.D. commercial (with her daughter, Jaymie).

Additionally, as a voice actor, Ms. Vandervort-Cobb is the narrator at Disney's House of Presidents 2017, in Philadelphia at the new and improved Museum of the American Revolution and she voiced part of the Muhammad Ali Birthday Celebration 2012 for ESPN and NBC.

She has hawked products from OLAY to the FBI internal videos. Those dulcet, smoky tones also can be heard as the voice in the EMMY AWARD winning video documentary “Where Do We Go From Here?...the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” and, should you visit the US CAPITOL Building Tour or the Gettysburg Visitors Center, your tour will be guided by the voice of Ms. Vandervort-Cobb.

Joy has collaborated on the creation of four dance theatre productions, all movement-theatre devised pieces she very much believes in: MOMENTS CAPTURED, co-created and danced with Kristin Alexander from ANNEX Dance in response to the Halsey Institute of Arts installation called Southbound; TORN with dancer Eliza Ingle from Anonymity, written by Vandervort-Cobb; WE JUST BEGUN with dancer Erin Leigh, co-written and conceived by Vandervort-Cobb; student written, choreographed and danced piece by Raqui Brown, called NIGG*R.

A recipient of the 2018 MOJA Arts Festival Community Tribute Award for THE ARTS, Joy presently makes her home on James Island, SC. She has two adult children, one grandchild, and the same husband she met on a national touring bus in 1984.

Denise Murchison Payton - Dr. Denise Murchison Payton, Director of Choral Activities, Music Area Coordinator, Instructor of Voice, Opera Workshop, Chamber Ensembles, workshop presenter, Facilitator of Learning, Minister of Music, Author, specialist in African American Music, and often a Guest Conductor, is a native of Spring Lake, North Carolina and is known for her beautiful soprano voice as well as a spell binding presence when ministering in song.

The release of Songs in "D" Inspirational Songs of Faith displays her versatility and evidence of her deep abiding love in God and all that faith has to offer. Classically trained, she has studied with Judith Pinnix Howell (NC), Sheila Carver (TX), Dr. Leroy Roberson, Dr. Howard Pearsall, Dr. Samuel Barber, Phyllis Tektonidis (NC) and Christine Weidinger, Metropolitan Opera.

Dr. Payton, B.A., M.A., Ed.D, has studied vocal music performance at North Carolina A&T State University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Curriculum & Instruction from Fayetteville State University, Music Education at Boston University, and Higher Education and Adult Learner at Walden University.

Dr. Payton performed regularly with the Long Leaf Opera Company. She performs frequently as a soprano soloist and in such operas as Susannah, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and in the world premiere of Strange Fruit, and Regina.

Internationally, Dr. Payton has performed at the American Church in Paris, France, St. Jacobs, a 12th century church in Liege, Belgium, the National Basicilia of Koekelberg, the fifth largest church in the world and St. Giles Church in the canal city of Brugge, Belgium.

Denise is featured on the CD “What a Mighty God We Serve” recorded in Belgium. Dr. Payton has been a featured soloist with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, Cumberland Choral Arts, Wilmington Oratorio Singers, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Payton was nominated for a Grammy Award in Music Education in 2014, received the Heritage Keeper’s Award for her preserving the Negro Spirituals as well and recently being named “Faculty of the Year” for the Department of Performing and Fine Arts at FSU Spring 2019 and Spring 2020.

She has recently become a Contributing Faculty member with, as well as a certified professor in online teaching.
Before her current position as Director Choral Activities at Fayetteville State University, Dr. Payton spent thirty years directing choirs in the Richmond and Cumberland County Public Schools.

Under her baton, the FSU Concert Choir made their debut with a Prelude Concert at the famed Carnegie Hall. Her students are Nationally Acclaimed and have performed at The Kennedy Center, The Grand Ole Opry, The Governor’s Mansion, and numerous cities in the US.

Payton is also the founder/director of The Heritage Restoration Chorale an ecumenical group of singers from the Fayetteville, Cumberland County area specializing in the Negro Spiritual.

Monique McLeod - Monique Butler McLeod is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina. As a pastor’s daughter and the third of five girls, she grew up in a deeply rooted spiritual and musical home.

She received her vocal training under the tutelage under Dr. Johnella Edmonds at Virginia State University. A former Miss Virginia State University, she received her Bachelor of Music Degree in Choral Music Education.

As a high school choral director for over 20 years, her choirs both in Virginia and North Carolina, have toured locally and nationally. Currently, she teaches choral music at her Alma Mater, Ezekiel Ezra Smith High School. She often speaks of how proud she is that she is now the director of the high school choral program that once molded her as a young singer and prepared her to pursue her college degree.

She has served as a choir director and a minister of music in various church ministries including St. Paul Baptist Church in Richmond, Va and currently Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

She has performed various genres including opera, music theater, gospel, and jazz performing locally and nationally and continues to perform as a soloist and with her husband, musician Buddy McLeod.

She currently lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina with her amazing husband, Buddy and her two beautiful teenage children Jasmine and Tony.

Ramelle Brooks - Ramelle Brooks, a bass-baritone, holds a Master of Music in Performance from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, and is a Music Education (Voice K-12 specialization) graduate of Fayetteville State University. He served as the choral director at West Hoke Middle School in Raeford, North Carolina, later matriculating to the Ezekiel Ezra Smith High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he served in the same role.

After serving his native community, Ramelle decided to answer the call for higher education and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice at the University of South Carolina. Supplementing his academic experience, he serves as Director of Music at Second Calvary Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Ramelle is married to the former Jasmine Fort and is the father of Joel and Melody Brooks.

Ramelle has sung leading and supporting roles in several operas and musicals including La Cambiale di matrimonio, La finta giardiniera, Smokey Joe’s Café, H.M.S. Pinafore, Porgy and Bess, The Elixir of Love, The Gospel According to Les Misérables, The Carousel, and Moses: How She Lead Her People to Freedom. He holds membership in the National Association of Music Educators, The National Association of Teachers of Singing, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Serenading Fayetteville Through Outstanding Choral Performances

Cumberland Choral Arts has been performing for audiences in Fayetteville, NC since 1991. Over the years, we have sung pieces from different genres of music such as classical, stage and screen, jazz, and opera.

We are a nonprofit organization* that focuses on music and choral performances. It has always been our passion to bring world-class music to the communities in the Sandhills region and Cumberland County. In 2017, our efforts were recognized when we received the Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame award.

*This project is supported by the Arts Council in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources.


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