Rev. John Wilkins and Stewart Copeland
Como, Mississippi played host to an unlikely encounter between two musical luminaries this week, as Stewart Copeland
, the drummer behind Diddy's hit "I'll Be Missing You" (not to mention everything ever recorded by the Police
), arrived at Hunters Chapel Missionary Baptist Church to bear witness to a service presided over by Rev. John Wilkins.
Copeland was there with Nico Wasserman and Alex Black, who are producing a new three-part documentary for the BBC on the cultural power of music. For the episode on music and spiritual experience, Copeland has visited such locations as Hillsong Church
in New York, CeCe Winans
in Nashville, and, this past Sunday, Hunters Chapel.
This follows close on the heels of the popular BBC special program On Drums
, in which Copeland explored "the drums as the founding instrument of popular modern music." The response to this was so positive that this new series, as yet untitled, was planned to explore the social impact of music more generally.
Sitting through a full service, Copeland was visibly moved by the experience, as an enthusiastic congregation and choir, led by Rev. Wilkins, sang with fervor. Some church members were so swept away as to need the assistance of ushers, who rushed down the aisles to steady and calm them. Eventually Copeland jumped to his feet and began singing and clapping with everyone else.
The congregation was gracious and welcoming to the visitors. Rev. Wilkins' manager Amos Harvey, also in attendance, commented, "It just felt so good, so open and inclusive. It was almost hypnotic at times."
Copeland, for his part, was glowing after the service. As the crew interviewed Rev. Wilkins on his own, Copeland sampled the victuals in downtown Como, and spoke about the power of music and his love of composition for cinematic soundtracks. "When Tom Cruise kisses a girl with all the love and sincerity he can, it's my job to show the sinister intent behind what he's doing," he noted, by way of example. Beginning with 1983's Rumble Fish
, Copeland composed soundtracks for a good 20 years.
Nowadays, Copeland regularly revisits his compositions in live performances with symphony orchestras around the world. The current tour of such shows, which feature Copeland on drums, is known as Stewart Copeland Lights up the Orchestra
, and will next take him to Poland and Italy for dates this June.
After lunch, Copeland returned to the church to play with Rev. Wilkins and speak to him about the spiritual significance of both gospel and the blues. The church environs, a bucolic landscape of pastures, woods, and lakes, made for a serene setting as the two waxed philosophical. As Rev. Wilkins demonstrated his father's time-honored composition, "Prodigal Son," Copeland joined in on a percussive frying pan from Brazil. "Would you like your eggs up or scrambled?" he quipped as they closed the song. "I guess that was pretty scrambled."
Cameraman Alex Black gets the shot as inverted Deity looks on.