Choirs present gospel music as art at annual Gospel Fest

Gospel choirs from UCLA and Biola participate in "The Art of Gospel Music."

Gospel+Choir+members+performed+at+a+showcase+called+Gospel+Fest+on+Saturday%2C+April+21%2C+2012.%0A%7C+Courtesy+of+Jordan+Nakamura
Gospel Choir members performed at a showcase called Gospel Fest on Saturday, April 21, 2012.
| Courtesy of Jordan Nakamura

Gospel Choir members performed at a showcase called Gospel Fest on Saturday, April 21, 2012. | Courtesy of Jordan Nakamura

Gospel Choir members performed at a showcase called Gospel Fest on Saturday, April 21, 2012. | Courtesy of Jordan Nakamura

Jessica Schildt and Jessica Schildt

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Biola continued its annual tradition of Gospel Fest on April 21. This free event showcases worship through gospel music. Gospel Fest was first offered in 2003. This year, in keeping with the Year of the Arts, Gospel Fest’s theme was “The Art of Gospel Music.”

Terry Coon, Biola’s Gospel Choir director and a spring 2010 graduate, says that the vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers all expressed the art that is gospel. Choirs included the Biola Gospel Choir as well as ensembles from University of California, Los Angeles and the Friendship Baptist Church of Yorba Linda. Biola’s Gospel Choir began in the fall of 1985. Senior business administration major Justin Green played a saxophone selection, and the event also featured choreographed “praise dance” and miming. The event emphasized diversity within the gospel genre, as the audience listened to the music, saw praise dancing, miming and enjoyed comical skits about gospel music.

Bringing together different backgrounds

To begin the evening, emcees sophomore Ciara Dines and alumna Autumn Howard opened in prayer and introduced the various singers and performers, reading Scripture aloud between acts. The audience members, representing a mixture of ages, were encouraged to respond to the music in whatever manner suited them — many energetically joined in clapping and singing. When Green played a saxophone selection, including “Our God is an Awesome God,” the audience sang the words along with the music.

Dines, a communications major, loved seeing the unity of people from different backgrounds worshipping through gospel music.

“It looks very different than what we usually attend. I really saw the kingdom of God come together for the event,” Dines said.

Although this was her first year in the Biola Gospel Choir, Dines has enjoyed the closeness that comes with being in the choir.

“That worship style of building community is very close-knit,” she said.

Worship, ministry and art

The UCLA gospel ensemble and the Biola Gospel Choir were met with loud acclamation. Introducing the ensemble, Howard remarked on both the blessing of freedom in worship at Biola and the blessing of the UCLA ensemble in purposefully making space to worship God on campus. 

For Coon, the thirty students in Biola’s Gospel Choir use gospel music as worship and ministry, as well as an opportunity to learn the art of the genre.

“When I first came to Biola, my view of worship music in God's kingdom ultimately was limited to gospel music, particularly in the African-American experience,” Coon said.

After graduating, however, his perspective regarding worship music expanded significantly, and he hopes that Gospel Fest accomplished something similar for the audience.

“My prayer is that Gospel Fest allowed their vision of God to become much greater and the vast diversity of his kingdom much clearer,” he said.

Gospel Fest centered upon worship, which was especially evident in the Biola Gospel Choir’s rousing closing numbers. Introducing the set of songs, Coon remarked to the audience that he is grateful for Biola’s commitment to teaching the gospel of Christ.

He encouraged the audience to glorify Christ always, saying that “at the end of time we’ll all be singing the same song. This is a foretaste. You are the redeemed.”    

A time of mingling and refreshments in the Talbot quad followed the event, as the performers and the audience visited. 

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