What helps prolong friendship and music for over four decades? If you ask the quintessential a cappella group Take 6, their answer would be faith, respect and love of the art.
Take 6 was born from leader Claude Mcknight in 1980, and the original group took on the name of The Gentleman’s Estates Quartet.
“The honest answer is that I wanted to have my own group on campus as I entered OU (Alabama’s Oakwood College) as a freshman,” explains Mcknight. “I also wanted it to be different from the others and we evolved into a jazzier group from everyone else.”
That group eventually expanded on campus when tenor Mark Kibble and then Mervyn Warren joined shortly afterward. The group was then renamed to The Alliance. That rebranding had to shift again when it came time to sign with Reprise Records/Warner Bros. in 1987, and by that point, Take 6 was officially born and hit the road with their set performers: Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley.
Over the years the group that was born out of Huntsville went on to hit major notes and accolades all around the country. To date, the group has 10 Grammy Awards, 10 Dove Awards, 2 NAACP Image Awards, a Soul Train Award, and more under their belt. According to their website, some more notable honors Take 6 has enjoyed over the past few years include being chosen as the first musical group to perform in Cuba at the normalization of relations between our two countries, and their induction into The Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
“I think we’ve learned over time how important it is to be and remain true to who we are as a group,” explains Mcknight.”In other words, there’s no reason for us to chase things and genres that we may not find authentic for us.”
What Take 6 does not have to chase is a clear-cut sound. The multi-platinum selling sextet sing in harmony, against a backdrop of syncopated rhythms, innovative arrangements, and funky grooves ranging in genres from gospel, pop, jazz and R&B. The sounds from the group have also garnered praise from Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald and Whitney Houston.
“There’s an energy that happens with a capella music that can only happen with live voices,” says McKnight. “We in Take 6 have learned how to give and receive that energy to make for an enjoyable time for all.”
On June 11 and 12 at 8 p.m., Take 6 will be performing at Bristol Township’s brand-new amphitheater at 2501 Bath Road. The concert is the first of six shows that will also include Broadway Memories (June 18-20), Totally Awesome 80s (July 16-18), 70s Flashback (July 30-31), Broadway Ahead (Aug. 13-15) and The Doo Wop Project (Aug. 27-28).
“We are beyond thrilled to begin producing in-person shows and concerts again,” said BRT Producing Director Amy Kaissar in a statement. “And we are honored to have Take 6 joining us to kick off the summer. The William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest is like an instant cure for the COVID blues.”
But Mcknight has his own take on what fans can expect, especially after coming back to live performances himself after such a long hiatus due to the pandemic.
“You realize how 30+ years of touring can be taken for granted until everything comes to a screeching halt,” says Mcknight. “The biggest thing to expect from us is a renewed love of what we do since the past year and a half we’ve had very few opportunities to be together. I’m hoping that audiences and performers can have the feeling of spreading love through song”
According to a release, the shows are family-friendly, and seating is socially distanced. Masks are required when not seated. Food trucks will be on-site, and there is no alcohol permitted. Chairs and blankets are available for purchase at the venue and online. All seating is general admission. For more information, visit brtstage.org