Common Chords By Randall Hill
The Bellamy Sisters
The excitement was apparent on the face of Jannett Bellamy Aklin as she placed a large bowl of fresh cut salad, grilled chicken breasts and a slightly overcooked pound cake on a pressed white tablecloth at her home in early May in the Bucksport community. “Well, I kinda burned it,” she said with a smile. “But that’s just like the deep dark love that we all have.”
The evening marked her turn in a rotating Monday night gathering of the eight Bellamy sisters as she hosted the event always filled with the celebration of sibling love and gospel music. The weekly gatherings have endured the last 20 years and most of the adult lives of the sisters.
“As we were growing up, we always loved to sing gospel. Our mother had all these girls, so we decided we might as well do something she taught us to do,” Aklin said about how the Bellamy Sisters a cappella gospel group started. “We loved one another and the group seemed like a way to show that.”
After a few minutes, each of the sisters arrived to hugs and songs greeting each other as if the space between meetings had been much greater than a week.
When asked about the gift of music, all the sisters pay tribute to their parents, Andrew Bellamy, who died in 1987 and mother Laura Bellamy who died in 1995. The two raised their 15 children in a modest two-bedroom home not far from where most of the sisters live today.
“Unless you know, we’ve come a long way,” said Aklin. “We were one of the poorest, but now that’s made us stronger.”
Although the events of their childhood could be challenging, most of the sisters stay focused on the positive points of having a large group of siblings.
“When you think about it, it’s great to have that many,” said Rose Bellamy Graham. It doesn’t get too late in the evening or too early in the morning when you can call them. They are always there.”
The sisters started singing together as a formal group about 10 years ago joining forces with brother James Bellamy and taking their music to area churches and events. Their first anniversary concert was at their childhood church at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Bucksport.
“The music adds to our relationships,” said Aklin. “When we meet on Mondays, no matter which sister’s house, somehow the music works its way in before we leave.”
Diagnosed in 1989 with multiple sclerosis, sister Brenzell Bellamy Hunt attributes her siblings’ love and the power of music as a way to deal with the disease that leaves her with symptoms of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue.
“If I ever have a flare-up, they will come over and make it better. I draw strength from them and through it all we have kept on singing.”
“And the music, somebody always comes in singing,” said Hunt. “So I know it’s going to hold us together.”
Sitting around Aklin’s large dining room table after the meal, sister Estelle Bellamy Robinson starts the group off with the first of many songs of praise for the evening.
“Trying to send, sweet songs of Zion,” the sisters sing. “Oh, Lord as we go from door to door.”
Listen to the Sisters perform 'Show me the way', with Estelle Bellamy Robinson on lead.
Listen to the Sisters perform 'It's Another Day's Journey', with Brother James on lead.
Listen as the Sisters sing around the dinner table.
Recorded at the dinner table #1
Recorded at the dinner table #2
Recorded at the dinner table #3