Azusa Pacific University joins Biola for Gospel Fest

The event promoted cultural awareness through afro-inspired gospel music.

Andres Ramirez // THE CHIMES

Emily Coffey, Staff Writer

Passion and joy filled Calvary Chapel this Thursday evening during Biola’s 35th annual Gospel Fest, themed “Breaking Through the Walls.” Intentionally scheduled during Black History Month, the two-hour chapel sought to expose audience members to gospel music to break through cultural and racial divides.    

SOULFUL PERFORMANCES

The event was robust, filled with performances by Azusa Pacific University’s gospel choir, gospel artist Leon Timbo, worship leader Tanya Decuir and Biola University’s gospel choir. The union between Biola and its rival school’s choir runs deep—gospel choir director Aja Grant and APU gospel choir director Lavone Setal have known each other since their time at APU. 

The event opened with Decuir leading two songs, “Our God is Greater” and “God I Look to You.” Biola’s gospel choir followed with “To Our God,” which featured Grant’s powerful vocals, and “How Excellent,” which boasted complex harmonies. APU’s choir performed an acapella version of “The Storm is Passing Over,” back by popular request.  

“No matter what’s going on, God is still worthy to be praised,” Seetal preached, explaining the overall message of the song, driven by the root of gospel music.

POWER OF GOSPEL

Biola alumna Symone Parker, who founded the event 35 years ago, came up after APU’s performance to explain the background and importance of the event. She then led four songs of her own, including “To God Be the Glory,”and ended with an acapella “Grateful” with her two sons, who she noted both take after her musical talent and enthusiasm. 

The event continued as Parker led both choirs in “Lord I Will Lift Mine Eyes to the Hills,”  a deeply passionate performance which showcased the power of gospel music.

Leon Timbo closed the event with “The Lion and the Lamb” and “Nothing Else,” introducing an acoustic guitar and harmonica. Not forgetting his own gospel roots, he expressed the hope that comes from the understanding of that transcendent truth of theodicy. 

The event continued on past the scheduled time with jumping, dancing and singing led by Timbo and Grant. Deafening applause followed, ending the night on a high note.