Calvin Gospel Choir draws diverse performers and audiences
The Calvin College Gospel Choir is welcoming everyone to worship with them at their annual fall concert this Sunday at 3 p.m.
The choir hopes its audience enjoys the music as well as a worship experience that they are not typically used to.
“Visitors can expect to clap, praise, dance, sing along, have fun and worship with us,” says senior Mark Campbell, Gospel Choir steering committee chairman. “We want an interactive worship experience that is set in the gospel music tradition.”
The Calvin College Gospel Choir started in the late 1980s and developed fully in the early 1990s as a student-led organization that began as a gospel ensemble.
The group developed during a casual conversation at the Knollcrest dining hall when students decided to elect a leader and form an official gospel choir. The group’s first rehearsal drew over 45 students. As the years went by the choir’s membership increased.
But it was not until 2003 that the gospel choir became an official ensemble of the Calvin music department.
This choir is considered unique to Calvin College because the style of gospel music is different from the worship music that is typically played in Christian Reformed churches.
Gospel music originates from the African American tradition of spirituals, blues, jazz and West African music.
Both musically and ethnically, the Calvin College Gospel Choir has been considered the most diverse musical ensemble on campus.
“Gospel choir brings people from literally all over the world to form a family and a body of believers who are willing to share not only singing but an interest in worshiping God,” junior Gospel Choir member Victoria Reese said. “We are one of the few choirs who represent what the kingdom of God looks like.”
Although the worship style may not be what some of the Calvin community is used to, the choir has shown how students from any background can worship together.
“The Calvin College Gospel Choir provides a forum in which gospel singers and musicians are able to transcend cultural differences,” said Dr. Charsie Sawyer, professor of music at Calvin and Calvin Gospel Choir director.
The choir works to celebrate all cultures and people, showing that gospel music is used as a style of worship by many groups of people.
“Along with American English, the choir has sung music in Spanish, Korean and many African languages,” said Sawyer, “This choral ensemble draws from diverse academic programs and musical skills.”
Over 10 nationalities are present in the Calvin Gospel Choir.
The choir reflects the Calvin community’s vision of every nation, tongue and tribe working and worshiping together. Coming together as a diverse group of people is what some members of Gospel Choir enjoy most.
“I enjoy the community and the atmosphere of worship we create as a family, and we all come from completely different backgrounds,” said Brooke Boomsma, a third year Gospel Choir member.
Other members also enjoy how the groups of students come together to worship.
“I love the fact that we can use our gifts for God’s glory, worship him and have fun all at the same time,” junior member John Morris said. “We are encouraged to have fun, feel the music and worship God. At all Gospel Choir concerts I look forward to ministering to people. Seeing our music touch other people always makes me feel like we have done what we set out to do at the beginning of the semester.”
Those sitting in the audience during the concert will not only see a diverse choir on the stage but will hear a variety of worship music.
“The concert will represent Calvin College and its varied worship styles,” Sawyer said. “It will be a wonderful worship service that encourages the believer to reflect on God’s grace.”
The concert will also give its audience the opportunity to learn about the choir’s upcoming travels. The choir will be touring in Argentina this May.
The choir is not only happy to share their music this Sunday but ultimately just happy to give the Calvin community the opportunity to have another worship experience.
“I am looking forward to how God will touch the hearts of the people who will be in the audience,” said member Chan Min Anh. “I have been to many Gospel Choir concerts here at Calvin and I always leave with the feeling that I have not only heard good music and great singing, but that I have been able to reflect on my own relationship with God.”