Hello again, everyone! I’d first like to extend a message of gratitude to everyone who was part of OICC’s annual Summer Gospel Concert this year. Whether you attended, performed, or helped ensure that the concert’s operations ran smoothly, I want to thank you for taking part in such a wonderful experience. I know that I had an amazing time, and I hope that everyone else did, too.

            I’ve been fortunate to work closely with OICC over the past several weeks leading up to the concert. I attended two of the choir’s rehearsals with the goal of being as helpful as I could to Sophie, Terrance, and any choir members with questions to be answered. The first of these rehearsals was in the evening Thursday, July. My partner Charlie and I met Sophie at the office and piled into her car with a box of uniform items wedged between us in the back seat. Once at the church, Charlie took on the job of distributing those uniform pieces while I set up shop inside the sanctuary with a table, some manila envelopes, and a sign-in sheet. From where I sat, I was able to have face-to-face interactions with all of the singers as they entered the sanctuary. It was a joy to see so many familiar faces from my time singing in OICC, and even more of a joy to meet the new members of the family. I was especially happy to welcome those members who were coming for their first rehearsal, those with whom I had previously corresponded over the phone or via email. I’m glad to have had a hand in bringing these people to OICC, however small my part may have been.

            The best thing to come out of that rehearsal, though, was my opportunity to show my partner the kind of work I’m doing this summer. It was incredible to have Charlie with me, volunteering their time to help make sure the singers had what they needed for a smooth rehearsal and concert. I am so passionate about the work OICC does, and to share all of that with my partner was fantastic.

            The second rehearsal I attended was on July 20, just days before the concert. The soloists, merely rehearsing with the choir, blew my socks off. The talent of all members of the OIGC family is astounding, but it was especially inspiring to see past members of OIYC who have become successful soloists at around my own age. But the performer who really stole the show during that rehearsal was a young OIGC family member who dances better at only seven years old than I do at twenty. When neither of us had any more duties to fulfill (did I mention that she was a great help to the choir members as well, asking each one whether they needed a fan to tackle the heat?) she and I danced in the back of the sanctuary to OICC’s glorious sounds.

            When concert day finally came, I thought I knew what I was in for. After all, I had been part of all three of OICC’s past concerts in some capacity, attending the first concert and singing in the next two. I had been to recent rehearsals and so knew what the program would basically sound like. And I had brought my partner Charlie into OICC’s rehearsal space and thought I knew how they would react to being at the concert with me. But the concert experience surpassed all of my expectations.

            I was surprised and impressed by the size of our audience; we were completely sold out and the church where the choir performed was bursting at the seams. This was easily observable from my position at the center of the action. My partner and I were the first people the audience saw as they entered the church, and we were the first to deal with each audience member’s set of needs. It was wonderful to see my partner take charge of checking names off of the Will Call list, taking ownership of their service to OICC. It was also wonderful to have my mother volunteering at the merchandise table. Her presence contributed to the sense that my immediate family and my OIGC family were melding together for this concert.

            During the second half of the program, my partner and I had a sudden break in our duties and spent it listening to the concert. We entered the sanctuary to the beginning of “Yes,” a solo from Logan McWilliams with support from Terrance Kelly, Aliah Tomlinson, and Cheryl Garner. Their performance melted my heart, and my partner surprised me with their loud cheers once the song was done. It was amazing to see the song elicit such a strong positive response from them, and to know that it had touched us both in the same profound way. During the next two songs, I turned my attention to the audience. I watched the applause, the hands raised in prayer, the singing and dancing along ripple through the church pews, and I was blown away by the power of the work OICC did that night. OICC’s music brought over five hundred people together to share in a common emotional experience, and to great effect. I am proud to have been part of the experience, and I’m so excited for next year.

Until then, thank you OICC!