Electricity filled the air at First Congregational Church on June 13th. The community choir had performed there in April as part of the free spring musical, but this time was different. Maybe it was because it was OUR concert. We had worked hard to spread the word about the show, rehearsed until we had our parts down pat.
After arriving, everyone I talked to was smiling and happy and ready to sing. With a successful sound check under our belts, we quickly ate then donned our stoles and bowties, adjusted lipstick and hair, grabbed a last drink of water. Right before it was time to file in, we circled up with the two visiting choirs, and Terrance led us through prayers for a joyful evening filled with peace and love. We held hands, sharing good thoughts with each other. I could almost sense the energy slipping out the doors and into the Oakland night.
An invocation by one of our own and a beautiful performance by Wings of Glory from Petaluma set the tone. Then the Monterey Peninsula Gospel Community Choir brought it to another level, with the animated stylings of director John Nash. He was into the music so much, someone else had to take over directing.
And then finally, finally, it was our turn. We squeezed our way onto the stairs, some of us spilling out onto the floor, waiting for our cue. Though I loved it from the first moment to the last, these were some of my favorite episodes:
- The first song, an acapella “Done Made My Vow,” where the sopranos and altos rang out loud and clear, then were joined by the deeper tones of the tenors and basses. Stephanie Miller, one of our sopranos, filled the room with her powerful solo.
- The end of “You’re Not Alone.” Every time we practiced, Terrance demanded that we bring it even more to convince the audience that while they might feel sad or lonely, they were not alone. As we sang, I could feel everyone pushing to give as much as they could. When we finished, Terrance had to take a couple of minutes to compose himself. And I knew that we sold it.
- “Take Me Back” with Ms. Jackie Tolbert. We had been given fair warning that she would bring down the house. Still, looking at her, one wouldn’t have guessed it. But then she opened her mouth, and an intensity of emotion and sound swept across the room, guiding her down the aisles. At one point, she even threw her notepad into the air. The crowd went wild, and it was hard to keep singing when all I wanted to do was listen to her.
- “Oh Bless the Lord” as the finale. Members of OIGC and the other choirs joined us as we backed up OIGC member Dan Strauss. My favorite feel-good song, I’d go so far as to say someone would have to hide a heart of stone not to have their spirits lifted on that one!
Overall, it was a fabulous experience. Several OIGC members commented on how wonderful we sounded, and one of my friends who had attended told me she wanted to join, too. I left the church with a big ole grin, overcome with delight and satisfaction, and our songs filled my head for days.
Photos by Kira Stackhouse of Nuena Photography
I surely wasn’t the only one. Here is feedback from other members:
“The combination of the lyrics of the songs, and the harmonies that the choir sings, and the vibe of gospel music, and the band playing, and the intention that we have in our hearts, when it all comes together, it is truly magnificent. When you look out, and see the faces of the people in the audience enjoying our music, it is such a special connection. There is a connection, heart to heart, between the choir and the audience.”-- Carolyn Honey
“God creates miracles and one manifested in our gospel concert for the First Congregational Church of Oakland on June 13. I felt that day that we came together as a choir in a big way, singing for God and his people singing with the voice but directly from the heart. Watching the whole room on their feet at the end singing with us, being lifted and smiling in joy same with tears on their face it is to me one of the best accomplishment ever and I look forward to our next concert. Many blessings to our audience, my fellow colleagues, and much gratitude to our conductor Terrance.”-- Danielle Nistor