Shirley Caesar lights up stage

Gospel fans filed into Lee Hall Auditorium by the droves on Monday night to see famed singer Shirley Caesar.

The crowd filled the room with shouts of “hallelujah!,” throughout her performance.

Jacquell Lawson, WANM 90.5’s The Apostle, prepared the crowd for Caesar.

As audience members eagerly waited, Frances Stallworth, adviser of FAMU’s Gospel Choir, offered words that seemed to elevate the crowd’s adrenaline levels even higher.

“I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it,” said Stallworth, who is also an associate professor of English. “I can assure you that you won’t leave here the way you came.”

After an invocation by Reverend Larry Hunt of the FAMU Ministerial Board, FAMU’s esteemed gospel choir took to the stage to deliver two powerful selections.

After that, it was all about Caesar.

The powerhouse songstress shimmied in a dazzling pink dress, while belting out a gospel number along with the members of the FAMU gospel choir.

The crowd rose to its feet and kept Caesar going.

Caesar, in a moment of inspiration, kindly dismissed the choir and took over the stage.

“I wish I could keep ya’ll,” said Caesar, who has recorded more than 40 albums since the 1960’s, “but I don’t think ya’ll could hang quite as long as I can.”

Along with her talented quartet, The Caesar Singers, the vibrant pastor entertained guests with songs like “I’ll Say Yes,” “Jesus, I love Calling your Name,” and Ammons’ personal favorite, “If You Can Make It.”

Ammons, also in attendance, thanked the pastor for coming to the university.

“Words are not enough to tell you how much we appreciate you,” Ammons told Caesar at the end of the concert. “You have started the week off right for us.”

Caesar, who actually did not know that Monday was the commencement of homecoming week, said it was delightful to start the week off on the right foot.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I didn’t know that this was the initial premiere. I did not know that until I heard James say it on stage. I’m just glad to be here with him. He’s a wonderful man.”

Both Caesar and Ammons have history. The president asked a favor of her years ago, which she said solidified their friendship.

“This man took a chance on me,” Caesar said. “He had me come and speak for two graduating classes at North Carolina Central University. When I graduated I was not one of those who were likely to succeed, but it was this brother that took a chance on me. I just could not help but come here to bid him Godspeed and to let him know that God is going to use him in a great way on this campus.”

Caesar said she was saved at the age of 12.

She also said she knew that she would preach and that God would use her.

Over the years, she has won 11 Grammy awards and has appeared on “The Gospel According to VH-1” and on the BET network on numerous occasions. In addition to this, the pastor was also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Caesar said individuals should trust in God and that everything will fall into place.

“You can not do anything but improve on greatness,” she said. “God is not calling on us to be great. He’s not calling on us to be popular. He’s just calling on us to be faithful.”