University Gospel Choir Touring Ensemble to Visit California Congregations
Spring break tour, March 10-17, features 51 student singers
CHICAGO (February 18, 2013) — The North Park University Gospel Choir Touring Ensemble will visit seven California congregations of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) during its 2013 spring tour, singing in worship and in longer choral performances. The theme of the tour is "Lifting the Highest Praise."
The March 10–17 choir tour schedule includes visits to congregations in Fremont, Modesto, Turlock, Hilmar, Santa Rosa, and Oakland. Of the approximately 130 students in the popular Gospel Choir, 51 students make up the touring ensemble. The choir is directed by Stephen Kelly, worship coordinator, University Ministries, and co-directed by Dr. Helen Hudgens, associate professor, School of Music. Instrumentalists will accompany the touring ensemble.
Students have committed their entire spring break to be part of the California tour. "It inspires me over and over again to see God at work in the church, and to see these students become the body of Christ, love one another and care for one another, and sing so passionately about the goodness of God. I wouldn't miss it for the world," Kelly said.
About 10 students in the touring ensemble are international students from Scandinavia, South America, and Asia, said Kelly. "I love that. Gospel music is an authentic glimpse of God, and anyone from any culture can connect to the words and to the meaning behind the music, because it's God revealed in a unique art form," he said.
The choir tour will feature diverse compositions by well-known and award-winning composers. Among the songs the Gospel Choir Touring Ensemble will sing is "High and Lifted Up," by Joe Pace; "Faithful," Hold Out," and "Grateful" by Hezekiah Walker; "Jesus Be a Fence," written by Sam Cooke, the legendary American pop and soul singer, and arranged by Fred Hammond; "Total Praise" by Richard Smallwood, a gospel music icon; "More than Anything" by Lamar Campbell; "I Will Run" by Freddy Rodriguez; and others. Two favorites are "Awesome God Medley" and "Brighter Day" written by Kirk Franklin, a seven-time Grammy Award winner. The choir will sing about five songs in regularly scheduled worship services and about 15 compositions during choral performances.
The Gospel Choir, seen here in 2011, is a popular ensemble in the University's School of Music.
Gospel music, rooted in the black church experience, is joyful, filled with praise, and uplifting. Choir members clap their hands and are frequently in "step motion" while singing. Choirs and instrumentalists improvise at times. Audiences participate. There's also a story that goes with every choral piece, Hudgens said. "What attracted me to gospel music is the fact that it comes from a long tradition of a community in a struggle," she said. "It is music that has a history and a certain weight of experience to it. There's an authenticity of having to deal with adversity and struggle, and finding Jesus at the center. It's very Christ-centered music."
School of Music touring ensembles visit parts of the country where there are concentrations of University alumni and ECC congregations, said Rev. Mark Olson, director of church relations.
"This ensemble will give friends of North Park, members of Covenant churches, and prospective students and parents a sense of the quality of our students and faculty, as well as a glimpse into the spiritual life of the North Park student experience, which the Gospel Choir represents," he said. The University Choir performed in California in 2008, the most recent University ensemble to tour in the state, he said.
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