My, these two years have flown by! Back in 2014 when I started my journey with Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, I didn’t know much about gospel music. In the beginning, I watched videos and listened to CDs, and while what I saw and heard was impressive, you really have to see the choir live to appreciate the full effect. I would have that chance a month later...
This past week the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir was blessed to perform for three Super Bowl events including Super Bowl City, NFL Experience, and the GameDay Fan Plaza at Levi’s Stadium. I never would have imagined having the opportunity to sing at such a high-profile event. Yet there was OIGC, all dressed up in official NFL gospel choir robes, singing our hearts out for the attendees.
My family came to visit me and my husband over the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we gobbled down spaghetti and meatballs, then headed into San Francisco for the OIGC ensemble show at Slim’s. My family had never heard the choir before, and they were blown away by the performance. (Rightly so!) They were especially impressed with my two favorite songs: the get-up-and-dance “Jesus Will” and the tear-jerking “Worth.”
When I was brought on as the Production Manager for the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir in September of 2013, the groundwork for the European tour had recently begun. Almost 2 years later, after many hours of logistics, planning, and manifestation, I am pleased to say that the tour was a smashing success!
The members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir described the opportunity to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival as a “bucket-list experience” and a “dream come true” and after hearing their voices lifted by the spirit at the Park Stage and at St. John’s Church, I’d say they can check that dream off their list.
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. 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.
This past year, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir completely changed my life. I officially joined the choir last September, and ever since, I have experienced unprecedented artistic fulfillment as well as optimism about our world and the influence we can have in it.
We form this beautiful music called gospel by the traditional recipe of the human voice in harmonized chorus, the rhythms of the African diaspora, and the stories and melodies of America. But unlike most gospel choirs, we are an explicitly interfaith organization. To me this characteristic has two layers of poignancy. At first, the obvious: As religious intolerance justifies some of the most abhorrent violence throughout the world today, we stand as an interfaith gospel choir in front of the global audience as a basic refutation of this bigotry. But in the Bay Area, where religious dogmatism is not so often the most formidable threat to our social integration, our choir is clearly an example of racial and socioeconomic diversity that is increasingly rare. In addition to our numerous religious and spiritual persuasions, we are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, wealthy, working class, old, young, straight, queer, and everything in between. I have never before in my life been a part of such a diverse family, and I can’t begin to describe how awesome it is.
I started as administrative assistant of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir last March, and it's been quite a ride. What a wonderful organization and what fun to be around interesting, thoughtful co-workers and a diverse group of choir members.
So much has changed in the past year. From being promoted to Office Manager, to taking the lead on communications, to attending my first holiday concert at the Paramount. Granted, it hasn't always been easy. Multiple events at once, deadlines...and have you ever tried tracking down information from Terrance Kelly? But some days don't even feel like a job, like watching videos or sorting through photographs of the choir.
Another development is that I am now a proud member of the Oakland Interfaith Community Choir.
Our trip to Canada was an outstanding experience for me and everyone else in the youth choir. This was the first time the majority of the choir members had the chance to go out of the country to perform. Most of us fell in love with Canada at first sight.
was 24 years old, just a year home from college, working an internship at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center while I was looking for a full time job... and my purpose in life.
At approximately 7pm that Saturday night, I was sitting in the rear orchestra section of the Paramount Theatre by myself, surrounded by grown-ups I didn't know. My boss and mentor, Anne Huang, had given me a ticket to the gospel choir concert that she was in.
I was about to experience my first Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir concert.
As I reflect over the last several months of excitement and anticipation (and hard work!), one particular concert stands out for me.
I have never worked an event like the 29th Annual Holiday Concert before. When OIGC started selling tickets, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then I was all in: fielding questions from choir members and potential attendees, processing ticket orders, sending out VIP invitations, selling ads, editing the program, crafting the stage décor, you name it.