Gospel Choir gives seniors joyful farewell

The Williams Gospel Choir’s performance last Saturday packed amazing talent, beautiful music, a few tearful goodbyes and a lot of soul. The performance starred choir members Kimberly Kiplagat ’16, Irene Castillo ’16, Jasmyne Grismore ’15, Willis Koomson ’14, Etienne Aduya ’15, Stanley Ewala ’16, Don Polite ’13, Alyssa Barlis ’13, Christina Chen ’16, Jackie Lane ’16, Dinie Desire ’16, Charlotte Vinson ’13, Emanuel McMiller ’14, Todd Hall ’16 and Hector Trujillo ’16, as well as co-directors Gabe Cervantes ’13 and Marcela Osorio ’15. The audience was welcomed into Chapin Hall by the Choir’s co-directors, who invited the crowd to take an active role in enjoying the performance, encouraging them to do whatever it took to feel the music, whether it be cheering on, clapping, singing or dancing in the aisle. Indeed, the first soloist of the night, Castillo, immediately insisted the crowd stand up and move as the choir performed Beverly Crawford’s “Lion of Judah,” revving the audience up for the rest of the show, which moved fluidly and passionately from energetic arrangements to poignant and meditative pieces.

The show continued with Vinson and McMiller soloing during a performance of “Lord Prepare Me” by the West Angeles Cathedral Mass Choir. With the next song, “My Name is Victory” by Jonathan Nelson, featuring a solo by Aduya, the choir added a new dimension to their already powerful voices with guest musicians Christine Hulsizer ’13 on the soprano saxophone, Andrew Quinn ’13 on the tenor saxophone, Allen Davis ’14 on trombone, Gregory Ferland ’16 on bass, Brian Levine ’16 on drums and Abe Sanchez, a community member, on piano. The musicians accompanied the Choir for the next several songs, adding a jazzy feel to the gospel music. The singers and musicians most impressively complemented each other in a rendition of “Go Down Moses” arranged by John Blake and directed by Avery Sharpe, faculty advisor to the choir. The arrangement mixed gospel with blues and doo-wop, and featured impressive solos by Hulsizer, Quinn and Davis.

The rhythmic piece was followed by two of my personal favorite songs of the night: “Order My Steps” by the GMWA Women of Worship Choir and Bishop Larry D. Trotter’s especially powerful song “My Worship is For Real.” The Choir showed the audience the full range of their talents in this ballad-like arrangement, one of the most passionate and euphoric performances I’ve heard so far at the College.  It was followed by the almost frantically upbeat and energetic “Jesus is My Help” by Hezekiah Walker.

It proved a great transition to the next portion of the show, which featured the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ very own, nationally recognized a capella group, the Allegrettos. The Allegrettos performed three traditional songs: “The Lord is Blessing Me,” “What if God” and “How Excellent.” The songs, solemn and performed powerfully and with great discipline, were no less heartfelt than their predecessors. The Allegrettos offered the show great dynamism, reminding the audience of the resources just beyond the College’s gates.

The night then transitioned into that heartfelt portion of the show which characterizes most group performances this time of year: goodbyes to the seniors of the group, Barlis, Vinson, Polite and Cervantes. The tributes to each member were aptly followed by a performance of Kirk Franklin’s “Don’t Cry.” The last song performed solely by the Choir was “Total Praise,” an impressive arrangement by senior director Cervantes following in the Choir tradition of senior-produced final songs. The last song of the night was the traditional “Ride on King Jesus,” for which the Choir invited the Allegrettos, Gospel Choir alumni and other volunteers to the stage. The result was a fantastic finale from a stage overflowing with talented and visibly joyful singers.

The performance, while the last of the school year, marks another achievement in a particularly special year for the Gospel Choir that is far from over. Recently, they have opened for two-time Grammy Award-winning artist Rita Coolidge, toured the San Francisco Bay area over spring break and this summer they will be the first Gospel group to perform at the Litchfield Jazz Festival in Connecticut. The performance was an appropriate end to such a successful year.

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