Marking the crossroads of Long Island’s twin forks is a picture-perfect expanse of boat moorings and benches along the Peconic River. The idyllic spot tucked behind Riverhead’s Main Street storefronts is also featured in the opening of a 2017 music video for the original song “Smile” by Long Island gospel group HeavenSent.
Since the video, the five-man group has attracted considerable attention and has been expanding its presence on the East End. Following the group's September performance at East Hampton’s Guild Hall, HeavenSent on Saturday comes to Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater in a concert hosted by Amityville-raised sitcom star Chico Benymon ("Half & Half"), that will also feature the “angelic” Serena Tyson and “gospel fireball” Ruby Bias as opening acts.
“Every good gift comes from above,” says HeavenSent’s founder, Leander Stevenson, of the group's opportunity to share its music and its spiritual message. He feels the same way about how the five young male vocalists — hailing from Amityville to Riverhead — came together, despite attending different churches from across Long Island.
Performing for his congregation since he was 11, Stevenson found himself rounding up and delivering powerful harmonies with some pals at an outdoor 2009 community event. Encouraged by the high praise he received, Stevenson went on to recruit friend and fellow gospel singer Melvin Robinson to help take HeavenSent to another level, drawing in audiences from both the sacred and secular spheres with the group’s blend of traditional gospel and contemporary sound.
According to Stevenson, HeavenSent lived up to its name when its other current members — Robinson’s brother, Deu'boyce Robinson, Jeremiah Seabury and Dana Bryant — joined its roster. “Deu’boyce came to us and said the husband of his wife’s cousin could really sing and it turned out to be Jeremiah. He and his first cousin Dana were part of a group called Chosen that I performed with back in 2004,” explains Stevenson.
Meanwhile, HeavenSent is being recognized as a gospel music force. Just off four wins at the North Carolina Fall Gospel Classic, the group is also nominated for five Rhythm of Gospel Awards, including digital album of the year, to be presented in July. The momentum of HeavenSent, Stevenson points out, is not unlike that in “I Believe,” one of his favorites on the group's set list. “We each have our own little part and at the end we come together to build something up.”
“We believe it’s going to happen,” he says of HeavenSent’s ascending success. “We are actually living it right now.”
WHAT HeavenSent in concert
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Bay Street Theater, 1 Bay St., Sag Harbor
INFO $30; 631-725-9500, baystreet.org