By Payton Clark, Arts Editor
The OBU music department has all sorts of ensembles. Mens, Womens and Mixed choirs, Jazz groups, worship bands. Now, they’ve added a Gospel Choir.
Started with the help of assistant professor of instrumental music Justin Pierce and assistant dean of students Jonathon Solomon, the OBU Gospel Choir was created this semester. With a growing group of faculty and students of all majors, the Gospel Choir has performed at the Gospel Fest Feb. 12 and during chapel Feb. 22.
According to Pierce, the gospel choir has been in the works for about three years due to his interest in the area. This is the first gospel choir at OBU in recent history.
“It’s been a few years in the making,” Pierce said. “When I was first hired we talked about this possibility and I have a little bit of a background in this as I participated in a gospel choir during my undergraduate studies playing saxophone.”
It has been a long time coming for a Gospel Choir to be formed at OBU, and senior vocal music education major De’Ericka Givings is very grateful.
“There have been a variety of people working to get gospel music in chapel for the past few years,” Givings said. “I am super thankful that I get to be a part of this victory for musical diversity in chapel.”
The creation of the Gospel Choir helps fulfill the OBU mission statement with the diverse culture of gospel music.
“Part of our university’s mission is engaging a diverse world, and there’s a large group of people that listen to gospel music and enjoy that,” Pierce said. “We didn’t have a group on campus to participate in that kind of music.”
Pierce appreciates and enjoys that through the Gospel Choir, more students that have previously liked gospel music, or haven’t experienced it can now at OBU.
“I really like that it’s something for students who have missed that experience to be involved with something like that at OBU,” Pierce said.“Especially if folks moved from somewhere where their church had a gospel choir and they missed that.”
For Givings, gospel music has always been a part of life.
“Growing up that’s all I really listened to,” Givings said. “Coming to OBU and having continuous contemporary style worship was a bit of a culture shock for me.”
With the creation of the Gospel Choir, Givings finds it important to learn different styles of worship.
“I really believe that having a variety of different types of musical ensembles is crucial to making sure that each student on Bison Hill has an opportunity to worship in a familiar way,” Givings said. “As well as learning different styles of worship that they aren’t quite used to.”
Givings particularly enjoys the unity found in praising God with a group of different people.
“I love singing in gospel choirs because of the community,” Givings said. “Whether you’re singing a song about praise or a song about trial, the gathering of different people singing in unity to glorify Christ is always a blessing to be apart of.”
The choir is currently made of nearly 20 members, both faculty and students, and they are looking for more members to participate.
“Anyone is welcome to come sing with us,” Pierce said. “We’re looking to grow the choir, so new members are welcome to join us.”
Those interested in joining the Gospel Choir can contact Pierce directly.
“[They] can just email me at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll let them know when the rehearsals are,” Pierce said. “I have a group message set up for the ensemble so I can get them in that and plugged in.”
Like the other choirs and ensembles at OBU, the Gospel Choir hopes to begin travelling for performances soon.
“A lot of times with gospel choirs, a choir from one college will go and perform at surrounding area universities,” Pierce said. “That’s something I would like for us to do, as well as maybe a Sunday night concert at some churches.”
Pierce believes that the desire for a Gospel Fest and similar events helped to create the choir, as well as to help them find performances.
“We’re trying to plan some events in the spring, but our recent performances have been at the Gospel Fest and chapel this Wednesday,” Pierce said.
“We wanted to make sure to put a choir together for that, and it always helps when you have an event to plan when people are energized and excited about it.”