Everyone welcome, ‘no matter race, color or religion,’ says organizer
By RACHEL COLEMAN
• Leader & Times
Black History Month, in February, is still weeks away. But the sounds of traditional black church music can already be heard as the Black History Month Community Choir warms up for another year of song and fellowship. The choir began practicing in late November, said Black History Month committee member Gwendolyn Moore.
“Yes, we started before Thanksgiving, but we always begin to pick up more members after the New Year,” she said. “As usual, we want everybody to feel welcome. The choir is accepting everyone who is willing to sing and come to rehearsals, regardless of color, race or religion.”
Moore, who noted she’s trying to “slowly step down” from directing the group, said director Melody Green has brought a fresh focus to the choir.
“Melody is directing this year, along with Sherrell Russell, and they are doing a wonderful job,” Moore said.
Another change for 2013 is the addition of a full set of musical accompanists. Keyboard, saxophone, guitar, drum and bass players have volunteered to play with the choir, and attend rehearsals.
“The young people have come to us from Mary Washington’s church, Heaven’s Open Gates,” Moore said. “We are so thankful to have them playing along with us.”
In order to accommodate athletic and school schedules, practice time moved from Friday evenings to Monday evenings. The group meets at 7 p.m. each Monday at Bibleway Church, 410 E. Eighth, and practice time generally runs until 8:30 p.m.
At Monday night’s rehearsal, the group worked through three songs, focusing on “It Ain’t Over,” with a soloist who would be unable to attend the following week’s session.
“Let’s get this song learned tonight,” said Green as she walked the choir through a difficult section with Russell’s help. “I want to hear more from you.”
Using printed lyrics — but no written music — to guide them, choir members listened to the musicians’ cues, watched Green and Russell intently and came in at the right time — after two tries.
“All right, all right,” Green said with a laugh. “Let’s try it again.”
By 8:30, the choir had ironed out the rough spots and sang a repeating chorus of “It Ain’t Over” more than the eight times noted on the lyric sheet. Green raised her hands in an expression of worship, tears shining in her eyes. The musicians continued to improvise, people clapped and congratulated the new soloist and several remained in the choir stand to sing and enjoy the atmosphere, while others put on coats and hats to head home.
With about 20 members from six churches and the community at large currently attending, Moore said she hopes to see increased participation as February draws closer. The choir concert always takes place the last Sunday of February, which falls on Feb. 24 this year. There’s still plenty of time for new choir members to join the group.
“I say it every year, and we really do mean it: everyone is welcome,” she said. “This is a community choir, and people don’t have to be black or even be familiar with black gospel music to take part. They just have to love to sing, and be willing to come alongside us, and we’ll welcome them.”
For more information about the choir, contact Moore at 626-7518.