By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
BRANSON, Mo. —
Delora Johnson raised her hands and shouted "amen" as she praised Voices of Glory.
"I'm here, and I'm excited," said the 64-year-old following the first half of "AYO," the talented trio's new show at the Hughes Brothers Theatre in Branson. "We are a Christian family that loves the Lord. It's just a grand show."
Delora, of Kokomo, Ind., said she was drawn to see the show during her trip to Branson because of the group's back story. She and her family remembered the three young entertainers from "America's Got Talent," where they placed in the top five during the show's talent search in the 2009 season.
The siblings' mother was severely injured during a head-on collision with a drunken driver seven years ago. She spent eight months in a coma and eventually regained consciousness.
Johnson said she was blessed to see the Branson show while the performers' mother was sitting in the audience.
"Just to witness and see their mother sitting with us today is a blessing," Johnson said. "Because she didn't have to be, and that reinforces our love of the Lord. It didn't have to go that way. Because of her family's faith, she is right here today. We say 'amen.' Let the church say 'amen.' This is exciting."
From singing in church and at their mother's bedside following her near-fatal accident, Michael, Avery and Nadia Cole, the Voices of Glory, have had an effect on people such as Johnson. The trio's performances on "America's Got Talent" and during the Gospel Music Association Dove Awards show led to being featured last year during a Christmas show at Andy Williams' Moon River Theatre.
The group now headlines their own Branson show, "AYO." The show's one-word name plays on a West African phrase for "Hey you, we love you," the siblings said during the show.
Michael Cole, the group's senior member and oldest son, said Branson audiences have welcomed their new show and family to town.
"We've taken time to meet people and see the shows," said Michael, 20. "The loving support for us has been great. Not only does our show entertain them, but it touches them in their hearts."
While the high-energy show features a variety of pop, soul, rhythm and blues music and dance, much of the show focuses on the New York family's journey through their mother's accident and recovery. Videos feature their father as he tells the family's story. Modern gospel music and classic hymns weave the show together.
"That's what we want to do," said Michael. "Whether or not you have even been to church, you will be able to enjoy the show. We want you to feel it in your heart and have a great feeling walking out the door."
Making a connection
Avery Cole said his musical ability comes easily to him, as it does for his older brother and younger sister.
"It defiantly comes naturally to us," the 17-year-old said. "It's a gift God gave us, but if you want to get better, you have to work for it. It never stops. You never get too good. You always want to get better."
After their mother's accident and during her long recovery, the kids lived with another family for a couple of years. The family friends who took the trio in owned a jazz club. That, Avery said, was a pivotal time in their lives and musical development.
"We were surrounded by good music every day," Avery said. "No matter what we went through, we have always had people to look out for us and that loved us. When we perform we know we have to practice a lot of hours. No matter what we do we will always work hard and get better and try to improve. The journey never stops. You always have to get better."
Nadia Cole, 13, brings mature vocals and some comic relief to the show. She's been performing with her brothers for most of her young life.
"I remember it was Easter Sunday of 2006 when I really started singing," she said. "Ever since I was little I told my father I wanted to be a singer and dancer and an actor."
Nadia cites Whitney Houston, Yolanda Adams and Gladys Knight as inspirational musical figures in her life.
"I love to sing ("I Will Always Love You") in the show," said Nadia. "I think it's a pleasure and a blessing to get to sing one of (Whitney Houston's) songs. It's a great feeling after you get done singing one of her songs."
Song, the three siblings agree, is key to touching people's hearts. Song is what they believe helped bring their mother back to them.
"I didn't know if (Mom) could hear us," Michael said. "We knew that music had a profound impact on people. We just tried to get her to respond to our voices. Just like a mother would sing to a baby in the womb to connect with it, it was kind of the same situation. We weren't sure, but we sang the songs she loved in our church. We sang her those songs to make a connection. It's a blessing."