Showcasing the Arts

Artist Award

Northern Kentucky Brotherhood

Kenton County

The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers is a jubilee-style, a cappella, sacred gospel quartet from Covington. More than 34 years ago, Ric Jennings formed a five-voice quartet (one lead and four harmony vocalists) out of the renowned Ninth Street Baptist Church Men's Choir. Since the beginning, this community-based quintet has sung in churches, at special gospel programs, anniversaries, song services and other sacred music events. In any setting, the Brotherhood's performances inspire feelings of fellowship and recreate the jubilant atmosphere of their home church. In addition to continuing the traditional role of the gospel quartet, the Brotherhood reaches out to a global audience with both spiritual and secular songs. They have become an annual hit in Spain, and have traveled to Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and Russia (courtesy of the CEC ArtsLink, Library of Congress and the Russian Embassy). While all the members have kept their day jobs, the Brotherhood is a unique group that is both locally known and semiprofessional. Their music is rich and complex and arises out of a shared inner-city experience that stresses faith, learning and communicative arts. In addition to gospel music, the group rounds out its repertoire with patriotic tunes, Christmas songs and feel-good R & B music. Current members are Eric "Ric" Jennings, Eric Riley, Stace "Babydeac" Darden, Sam "Watson" Norris Jr., Mike Wright and Luther Scruggs.

What does this distinction mean to The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers?

This distinction tells us that to be recognized with the Governor's Award, the years of hard work and dedication we put into our craft has been appreciated. It also inspires us to attempt to be the best that we can be, encourages us to share with others and to bless those that listen. We are truly honored to receive this award and pray that we have represented God, our families, and our fellow man in the most positive way that we know how, through the gift that God has given to us — a capella music.

What do you see as the group's role in promoting Kentucky art and creativity?

We consider ourselves as ambassadors not just for a capella music’s sake but of love and joy for the arts. We let people know that everyone has a gift and to find it, cultivate it and express it in ways to bring you joy. Sure, everyone may not be able to hold a tune in a bucket but everyone can feel the music, and that feeling can take a person back to a time in their lives where they had a great memory of a loved one or an event where happiness lived. It's all about encouraging one to be themselves and have fun doing it, the creativity in how you deliver will come on its own.

As part of a long history of a capella singing groups, what do you think draws both audiences and performers to that style of music?

Our music takes people back to the days when you had to know how to sing and could not rely on instrumentation to cover up your imperfections. We say it's like walking on a tightrope ... once we start the song on a certain key we have to finish it. We all lead songs, demonstrating our versatility and range, then typically follow up with a move into the audience to get the house singing along, shaking hands and having a good time with us. We actively involve the audience by inviting guests to join us on stage to sing a couple of songs that have universal appeal then we slow it down a bit to offer up songs that allow music to reach the deepest parts of their soul. Lastly, the show closes on a high note with a few up-tempo songs, encouraging the crowd to clap along.