Finals week begins tomorrow, but it feels like the holiday season has already kicked in. You guessed it… I’ve been a little bit of a slack getting comfy in the cold. I’ve been productive, though. For once, I decided to participate in an activity outside of class -- Gospel Choir! At first, I thought of focusing on adjusting myself to Luther for the first semester but over time it gets a little dull when your everyday routine is just classes and work-study. One of the reasons why I chose Luther to further my studies was because of the musical opportunities the school provides. However, my plans changed when I got here because I didn’t think I was capable enough of juggling between classes and music as I had so much to adapt to still. So, I had my musical hiatus for about three months until now. I’ve heard of Gospel Choir from one of my good friends here who persuaded me to join since the beginning of the semester.
I wasn’t ready for the commitment at first because I thought I had to consistently go for intense practices twice a week like a typical choir group. It wasn’t until two Sundays ago when I got to watch the Gospel Choir perform in worship during the regular service in the CFL. I was absolutely captivated. The singers not only did a great job but it looked like they had a great time serving the Lord. That was when I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of this choir group. There were only a few singers too, about two to three persons per voice groups. I liked the idea of Gospel Choir because it’s completely different from the usual choir groups I’ve been in and knew. There wasn’t any stress at all for the singers to perform. In fact, everyone is welcomed to participate in the choir group even if they think they can’t sing because “it’s a choir, we’re going to make it work together.” (said the conductor of the choir group, Brandon).
So, I spent my entire afternoon today at the Recital Hall in the CFL practicing and preparing for the Kwanzaa performance later that evening (I’ll get to Kwanzaa later!). When I first got there, I was greeted warmly by the members in the choir. I got to meet Brandon (our conductor), Sam (our director, one of the tenors, and a Luther alumnus), Moses (our percussionist), and the other members of the group. I was a bit confused as to what we should do or sing at first because I was expecting to memorize a score before practice, but it turns out we were all going to learn the songs together! I was relieved when I saw that our first song was O Come All Ye Faithful, a piece I’m familiar with. We started out with that. The next song was a piece by Mariah Carey, Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child, and most of us had no idea how we should sing it. However, Brandon was there to save the day. He guided us through the song tediously, voice group by voice group. He taught us the harmonies and made it easy for us to catch up. I had a lot of fun during practice, especially because we could just dance along as we like while giving our best.
Practice was done after an hour plus. We got ready and helped the musicians move the instruments to Peace Dining. One irrelevant thing I have to add though, I was very amazed to discover the existence of a tunnel that leads from the CFL to the Union today. We didn’t have to brave the blows of the snow outdoors because it brought us to the outside of the cafeteria! Anyway, the Kwanzaa Festival Program started shortly after 4 pm. Students of all kinds of traditional and formal wear were taking up the seats. The dinner started off with the Gospel Choir performing O Come All Ye Faithful, followed by an introduction on what Kwanzaa is. Kwanzaa is an African-American festival celebrated at this time of the year to commemorate their cultural heritage. There was a candle-lighting session right after with two of our students explaining the significance of each candle being lighted, traditions and beliefs held dearly to the African community. The event continued with short biographies of Gwen Ifill and Mohammed Ali read by two of our students to honor the African-American ancestors and celebrate their success.
Later on, we had a session called “Sharing Talents” that started off with a reading of poetry accompanied by acoustic guitar playing and singing. Then, the Gospel Choir performed Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child. Our conductor invited the crowd to sing and clap along with the choir, stirring hype amongst the audience. Another poetry was read afterwards, followed by an energetic dance by Zeta Tau Psi -- a fraternity in Luther, which also stirred up hype within the crowd. The “Sharing Talents” session ended with a reggae performance by a student band in our school as well as a powerful opera singing which set the Christmasy mood in place.
Finally, the food was served! Tonight was one of the nights when Peace Dining did not serve western cuisine because an African meal for a change would be nice, no? We ate to our heart’s content. When everyone finished, the event closed with a vote of thanks by one of our students and a closing song by the Gospel Choir, Hallelujah, Salvation, And Glory. The dinner ended with the audience joining a line dance together before we dismissed. It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in Luther, seeing that I got to participate in a performance for the first time here and doll up after such a long time. It almost feels as if I’ve just caroled for Christmas Eve. I’m excited to see what the Gospel Choir has in store this coming February.