The Rev. Maggie Ingram is a better preacher sitting down than most ministers half her age are standing up. The 87-year-old evangelist, backed by the Ingramettes, is a better gospel singer, too.
“We’re not perfect,” she told a crowd at the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront, “but we serve a God that will give us perfection if we want it.”
Many of those who gathered at noon Sunday at the Railroad Stage came to hear more than the rousing gospel music; they came to hear the word of the Lord. When the white-haired preacher asked at the beginning of the concert, “How many of you are saved?” a few hands shot up. When she queried them again 40 minutes later, the number of hands in the air had doubled.
“Church say, ‘Amen,’” she instructed each time.
Ingram was born July 4, 1930, on a cotton plantation in Georgia. She worked the fields with her parents, but it was obvious she had a gift for music. She married and moved to Miami, Fla., where she worked with her five young children every day teaching them to sing harmony.
The Ingramettes were born. They were sought after throughout the South to sing at churches, gospel festivals, church conferences and auditoriums. A record contract soon followed.
The group continues to be a family affair. The Ingramettes performed three times during the festival with Maggie Ingram’s son Lucious Ingram on keyboards, her daughter the Rev. Almeta Ingram-Miller singing first soprano, and granddaughter Cheryl Maroney-Beaver singing second alto. Valerie Stewart as first alto rounded out the vocals.
The band included Charles Williams on lead guitar, Marcus Washington on percussion, Kenneth Heath on keyboard and synthesizer, and Vic Elliot on bass guitar. They lifted the singers’ voices up and sent them out across Main Street.
Based in Richmond, Va., the group performed at the National Folk Festival when it left Bangor and moved to Richmond in 2005. This was their first visit to Bangor.
These days, Maggie Ingram needs some help getting around as well as out of a chair. Once she is up and singing gospel with her girls, however, there is no stopping her.
“I’m gonna keep on working for Jesus,” she sang out Sunday, “working till the day I die.”
“Amen,” the crowd replied, “amen.”