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Sunday’ s Best opened with Smokie Norful opened the show and  a toe tapping and hand clapping tune. Kirk Franklin kicked right into hosting duties introducing the last 10 contestants.

Last week’s show gave us talents by the tons. The second half of the roster was able to show their best . It was a show filled ups and downs. The judges gave everyone a fair shot . There were nicknames created. Mama Sue was born. Donnie McClurkin was in church.

Isaiah Freeman, IV, 28

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Audition City: Atlanta, Georgia

Isaiah Freeman, IV has big shoes to fill because his father is a church bishop, entrepreneur, educator, and an accomplished musician and singer.  Not daunted by the task, Freeman has followed in his father’s footsteps in many ways by attending Central State University, serving as a praise and worship leader and by becoming a successful songwriter.  His signature baritone voice has opened many doors for him, including performances with the Cleveland Orchestra and Dayton Philharmonic, as well as performances throughout the United States and abroad.  Freeman believes that the next “Sunday Best” winner will be a guy filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is for this reason that Freeman auditioned for the show multiple times before.  He is engaged and plans to be married in the spring of 2012.

Song: My Life Is I Your Hands

What the Judges Said:

Donnie McClurkin: You brought it brother.

Erica: It had a Fred Hammond quality

Tina: You showed great quality

Annalisha Robbins, 21

Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska

Audition City:  Los Angeles, California

Annalisha Robbins traveled over 2,000 miles from Anchorage, Alaska, proving that Alaska has more to offer to the world than Sarah Palin.  Robbins’ church family made sure that the world would hear Robbins’ voice as they came together to pay for her travel expenses.  Robbins’ young star has been rising for quite some time, having opened up for Mary Mary when she was just 11 years old.

Song: It’s The Lord’s

What the Judges Said:

Donnie McClurkin: You need to be confident.

Erica: You have to be confident in your anointing.

Tina: I don’t feel like I got the best.

Roosevelt Griffin, 24

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Audition City: Atlanta, Georgia

Roosevelt Griffin hopes that this is truly his season.  Griffin auditioned twice before only to be turned away.  But, that didn’t stop this preacher’s kid from trying again, during which time the judges could not deny him this season.  Griffin has been singing since the tender age of 5, when he started out singing in a group with his family known as the Taylor Family.  It wasn’t long before Roosevelt stepped out into the spotlight as one of the leaders of the group.  Growing up in a home with his mother and siblings, Griffin was very active in church and ultimately became the Minister of Music at the age of 15.  Griffin continues to be active at his church home in Memphis, Tennessee.

Song: You Are

What the Judges Said:

Donnie McClurkin: You gave it the best you had.

Erica: I don’t think you told the story well.

Tina: It was little overwhelming. I felt you threw the climax.

Sue Roseberry, 55

Hometown: Midland, Texas

Audition City: Atlanta, Georgia

A local legend in Texas, Sue Roseberry is a natural born singer and storyteller.  This grandmother of 15 has toured all over the South blessing audiences with her soulful and traditional style of gospel. She considers herself a storyteller and loves regaling the other contestants with stories of her singing the gospel.  A graduate of the College of Santa Fe, Roseberry has a B.F.A. degree in performing arts.  She is employed as a Land Analyst by Energen Resources Corporation and still finds time for her creative pursuits, which includes singing and professional storytelling.

Song: The Lord Will Make The Way Somehow

What the Judges Said:

Donnie McClurkin: This is what happens. You have the favor of God

Erica: I can’t wait to see what you gonna do in the rest of the show.

Tina: Good God Thy Mighty

Eric Drew, 27

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Audition City: Los Angeles, California

Representing for the new school of gospel singers, this laidback singer has a style much like his native Los Angeles.  But, when it comes to his passion for teaching young people, he becomes extremely animated.  As a young schoolteacher in Los Angeles, Drew spends most of his time in the classroom.

Song: The Presence Of The Lord Is Here

Donnie McClurkin: You must always be in control

Erica: It was ok.

Tina: You need control.

Felecia Russell, 41

Hometown:  Dallas, Texas

Audition City:  Dallas, Texas

Nerves almost got the best of Felecia Russell.  While at the Dallas auditions, she nearly left the auditions twice, but her two sons urged her to stay.  It’s a good thing that she listened to her sons because her audition was a hit among the “Sunday Best” judges.  This single mother is determined to make the best of being on “Sunday Best”.

Song: The Presence Of The Lord Is Here

Donnie McClurkin: The fear and terror on your face bothers me.

Erica: That wasn’t your best.

Tina: I believe that you believe, but I don’t think you believe in yourself.

Quentin Bethea, 22

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Audition City: Dallas, Texas

It has been said that one person’s trash can be another’s treasure.  No truer words have been spoken as it relates to Quentin Bethea.  At 8 years old, Bethea found his treasure when he stumbled upon an old piano meant for the city dump.  Bethea pulled the old piano into his garage and began to hammer away until the notes became melodies, the melodies became harmonies, the mixture became chords, and eventually the chords became songs.  Since then, Bethea has been afforded such opportunities as performing live with the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble. He earned a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music, but had to drop out to support his family.  He now serves as the Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Restoring Place Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Song: Blessed Assurance

Donnie McClurkin: I didn’t feel there was a spiritual connection.

Erica: You got to find a way to be not nervous.

Tina: I think you were a whole key under.

Timesha Sampson, 29

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Audition City: Atlanta, Georgia

Timesha Sampson hit the road from Memphis, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia with only $35 in her pocket.  This didn’t bother this pint-sized singer one bit because she had faith that her journey to the “Sunday Best” audition would not be in vain.  Her faith comes from having watched her uncle, who was nearly killed in a car accident, relearn how to do everything from walking to talking.  Sampson’s soft speaking voice is anything but when she opens her mouth to sing.

Song: There Is No Way

Donnie McClurkin: You lost control. It lost me

Erica: I love the energy but it felt all over the way.

Tina: I liked you. I believed you.

Brian Ezra Bates, 40

Hometown:  Huntsville, Alabama

Audition City:  Atlanta, Georgia

Personifying the saying “walk lightly, but carry a big stick,” this Alabama born firefighter has a quiet, yet strong presence.  When he is not putting out fires in Huntsville, Alabama, he is burning up the stage with his fiery vocals.  Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Bates’ earliest childhood memories encompass music.  Music spoke to his heart for years through a broken home, multiple adversities and many failures.  Recently, at his grandfather’s funeral, Bates promised that he would do something with his voice.  He fulfilled that promise by not only auditioning for “Sunday Best”, but in securing a spot as a Top 20 finalist.

Song: When We All Get To Heaven

Donnie McClurkin: I’m not sure where you are going.

Erica: It came off as if you were trying to pull us in.

Tina: Calm down a little.

Monica Smith, 31

Hometown:  Greensboro, Alabama

Audition City: Atlanta, Georgia

She might be shy and soft-spoken, but Monica Smith sings with a big voice. Nicknamed the “baby Shirley Caesar,” the married mother has a down home and soulful style of singing that can be likened to the sound of the great gospel legend.  Smith’s inspiration comes from a long history of being raised by a traveling caravan of gospel singers. Her aunt and mother traveled with her to the Atlanta audition. She hopes being selected as a “Sunday Best” top 20 contestant will help her break out of her shell.

Song: I Rather Have Jesus

Donnie McClurkin: You are a singer.

Erica: I love the gospel preachy that you do.

Tina:  Yea baby. I believe in you.

The final 9 are: Andrea Helms, 37, Amber Bullock, 26,Michael Pugh, 35, Isaiah Freeman, IV, 28, Michael Washington, 30, Sue Roseberry, 55,Monica Smith, 31

Felecia Russell, 41, Carlington Roberts, 34

The following 3 will compete next week for the final 10th spot:

LaTrice Smith, 35, Shanandolan Reynolds, 22 and Timesha Sampson, 29

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