For years, Kablack, a Middle Village resident, and Rivera, from Bayside, have been inspiring members of their congregation at Sunday services at St. John's Lutheran Church on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale. But lately, the duo's upbeat rhythms and infectiously catchy songwriting have met the approval of a great many other appreciative ears as well.
Calendar year 2008, in fact, turned out to be one of the most productive in the duo's six-year tenure. It was marked by the completion of their second album, "RIVERA AND KABLACK," and its placement on iTunes, Rhapsody, and similar music sites; the making of their first video, "Hold On (Jesus is Coming),” which can be seen on YouTube; and a soon-to-air television appearance on the nationally syndicated ministry program, "GOD'S HOUSE," which is seen by more than 3 million viewers across 12 different states.
Then came word that Nashville record label ROCKETOWN was interested in having Rivera & Kablack perform in a showcase in hopes of getting signed. ROCKETOWN, it should be pointed out, is the brainchild of Contemporary Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith, a nine-time Grammy nominee and three-time Grammy winner, as well as a 22-time Dove Award winner.
For Rivera and Kablack, the attention is well worth the wait. "It's amazing the channels you have to go through to get heard," said Rivera, "but it is what it is."
"It's an opportunity to get heard, that's all I think about," Kablack said. "We need to get noticed, and it's tough."
During difficult times, it may seem hard to believe that music embracing a message of hope and faith is finding such acceptance, but as Rivera explains it, "Now is the easiest time to do the talking (when) they're looking for hope."
Both Rivera's and Kablack's personal histories are in some ways the most significant measure of the strength and resolve that can be found in faith and friendship. Years ago when they first met at Rego Park's Our Saviour Lutheran, Kablack's spirit had recently been broken. He'd been discharged from the military after breaking his back, and returned home in tremendous pain, both physically and emotionally.
For solace, he sought the comfort of his family, his friends, and his faith, as embodied by the congregation at Our Saviour, where he was a dedicated parishioner, and a somewhat distant admirer of the musical stylings of Wil Rivera every Sunday morning, "until the pastor there found out I knew how to play the drums!" recalled Kablack with a chuckle. A musical friendship at Sunday services quickly became an enduring personal one.
Sadly, Rivera had been going through tremendous turmoil of his own at the time. His beloved wife Karen was fighting a losing battle with cancer. As Karen deteriorated, she took refuge in the nascent sounds of Rivera and Kablack's musical partnership that filled her home. "She liked listening to us practice downstairs," Kablack said. And in many ways, the music of RIVERA AND KABLACK is as much a tribute to Karen's memory, as it is to their powerful friendship. "She made us promise not to give up the music," said Kablack.
Rivera & Kablack will hit the road March 21st en route to Nashville, and will be back March 25th, well before the Easter season begins in earnest right here at home. For more information on their music and other endeavors, please visit www.myspace.com/weRtheproject. And of course, they can always be heard every Sunday at 11 a.m. at St. John's Lutheran on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale (well, after March 25th, that is!).