Last Saturday, the Williams College Gospel Choir (WCGC) gave a rousing performance at the First Congressional Church, accompanied by the Friday Night Fellowship Band and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Allegretos. More than a concert, this performance was a true community event: The diverse audience was composed of more local residents than students and offered a rare chance to escape from academic pressure without leaving Williamstown.
Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass emceed the concert, giving a brief opening statement and introducing each act as they came on stage. The WCGC opened with “Joy,” an uplifting, albeit relatively slow song. The two soloists, Moses Flash ’15 and Tabitha Tongoi ’15, performed admirably, adding an extra layer of depth to the song. Its joyful mood was exacerbated by an element of humor: the choir director would command the entire group to cease singing on a moment’s notice, at seemingly odd times. Though it seemed a bit confusing at first, it eventually created the undertone of informality and humor that would be interwoven with the gratefulness and faith of the concert.
The second song, “Todo Lo Que Respire” was a strong contrast to “Joy,” introducing a distinct Latin influence on the beat and Spanish lyrics. This number unavoidably induced movement in both the choir and the audience, while still conveying a faithful message through lyrics like “con Christo yo soy feliz,” which translates to “with Christ I am happy.” Following this relatively light song, “Now Behold the Lamb” seemed especially heavy and emotional. A slow tempo and very repetitive, hymn-like lyrics reminded the audience that the primary purpose of Gospel music is the glorification of God through song. Three separate soloists who entered and exited at different times throughout the song added soul and character, as well as an element of complexity. This theme continued into the next number, “Grateful,” which featured a long and very well executed opening solo by Marguerite Ferrera ’14.
Following “Grateful,” the WCGC exited the stage and the audience welcomed the Friday Night Fellowship Band from nearby First Baptist Church. A full band featuring two vocalists, a cellist, a pianist, a bassist and a drummer, they performed only one song, “This Is My Desire.” This anthem preached the values of giving oneself over completely to Christ, with lyrics like, “Give you my heart, give you my soul,” moving one of the lead singers to hold his hand up in a demonstration of faith. Overall, the act seemed very well-rehearsed and talented, and served as an interesting break from the style of gospel while continuing on the same themes.
WCGC took the stage once more towards the end of the performance, and shared four more songs with their mesmerized audience. Neo Mokgwathi ’15 introduced “Kae Le Kae,” a song from her native Botswana that she had nominated to be performed, as it helped her through the transition into college life in rural Massachusetts. With only a faint drumline in the background and no English lyrics, the song had a distinctly African feel to it. Next, the choir performed “Another Way,” a very classical Gospel song, which included heavy audience involvement. Not only did the singers address the audience, but they also received a rousing response, as many stood up from their seats and clapped along to the beat.
The following song, “Say the Word,” was incredibly unique. Rather than vocal soloists, this number featured two incredibly talented beatboxers, Willis Koomson ’14 and Pedro Roque ’13, to accompany the song. This added a very modern and unique flair into what could have otherwise been a somewhat repetitive performance, and led to even more visible enjoyment, movement and dancing on stage than usual.
Once again, another guest group entered the stage as the MCLA Allegretos performed three songs. Interestingly, the Allegretos began as a 10-person Christmas caroling group and then evolved into the choir of over 50 students that exists today. Their first song, “My Life, My Love, My All,” repeated the theme first began by the Friday Night Fellowship Band of devoting one’s life to Christ, featuring a serene beat and sincere tone. Their closing song, “Total Praise,” was nothing short of an incredible experience to witness: The joyful tone and soaring chorus were augmented by an incredible amount of audience involvement, as the choir director and several singers ran off the stage to sing among the crowd. The finale, in which the director divided the choir into three sections and then directed them each to sing the word “I’m” at different times and on different notes, was incredibly precise, and nothing short of spectacular.
The WCGC then came back on stage to perform three more songs, each featuring more and more audience participation. The final and most powerful song performed was “Ride On,” a canonized piece which closes every WCGC concert. Alumni in the crowd, the MCLA Allegretos and even some random audience members joined the WCGC on stage. No instruments accompanied the choir, but rather the simple accompaniments of stomping feet and clapping hands as the entire audience stood up to join in the song. It was a moving way to end the concert, consistent with the emotional material with which the songs dealt. This community event was truly special and goes to show that you need not travel far to go somewhere new.