Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (OIGC)– Gospel Workshop At San Quentin in the Chapel
Date: May 19, 2019
Host: Lisa Starbird

Essence Story by Lisa Starbird

After a lengthy alarm kept men waiting outside to come in, the chapel finally had close to a hundred people who participated in this mini collaborative concert and Gospel workshop.

Terrance Kelly director of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir brought in twelve OIGC choir members with their five-piece band. The small group sang strong and powerful and it sounded as if there were 50 of them singing in the chapel.

Terrance talked about “Interfaith” and that all are welcome and no matter what you call your God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Mohammed or Isis, when we sing using the word God or Lord, we are able to come together and sing about our own personal God and that there is no separation.

After OIGC did an incredible mini-concert, the San Quentin Catholic choir came forward to sing. The group included ten inmates and musicians. The inside choir sang an upbeat medley of Lord I Lift Your Name/ High & Lifted Up with OIGC singing along from their seats. OICG then joined the SQ choir on stage singing Total Praise together which was a highlight moment.

Director Terrance Kelly then had people shift their seats in sections sopranos, altos, tenors & basses. The OIGC choir had section leaders supporting each group of singers. Terrance proceeded to teach us all a couple of gospel songs in parts. (He also taught us how to clap on the 2 & 4 beats.)

Continuing on with the workshop, he asked for a couple of volunteers to learn a verse with one of the choir members to do as a soloist. Two of the men were happy to step forward. Then he invited anyone who wanted to sing another solo. At first the men were hesitant, and then there were five brave men who sang what we had just learned.

Support, inclusiveness, collaboration, joy, happiness and smiles filled the room and you could feel the good energy throughout the chapel.

Quotes from the men always say it best in my opinion. 

“It was the best Sunday program yet! Thank you Bread & Roses! Bring them back again soon!”

“This was THE highlight of my eight years in prison.” 

“It was phenomenal for our SQ choir to get to sing with their choir.”

“I’m so grateful I came on Sunday. It carried over into my day today and helped it to be a better day.”

“I was happy. Even me! And it takes a lot to make me smile.”

“The music and the collaboration opened my heart.”

“They were very gracious and kind to let us sing with them.”

“We all got to support and cheer on our brothers who stepped up to do solo’s.”

“They brought a great uplifting spirit.”

“I slept better last night than I have in months.”

“It was an evening of joy. I had forgotten what it was like to smile all night!”

“I wanted to know the details of what the night would look like, but when I was able to just be in the present moment, I was able to let go and enjoy the spontaneity and joy that filled the room.”

“We all have talents and we are infinitely creative no matter what our gifts are. Being able to share those gifts in such a collaborative way was an incredible experience.”

“When the professionals invited me to play with them that touched me. It was as if they were saying “I see you.”

“Being able to work with the choir was about my being accepted. Accepted in prison, being seen in prison. It helped me to remember my humanity.”

Making a difference inside of San Quentin State Prison. Bread & Roses Presents the healing power of music at it’s best. 


Lisa Starbird
Program Associate/ Event Producer | Bread & Roses Presents

415-945-7127 ext. 104 | Lstarbird@breadandroses.org | www.breadandroses.org

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