The world-renowned Harlem Gospel Choir traveled to the University of Tennessee Thursday night to perform in the Student Union auditorium.
Founded in New York City on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1986, the choir has performed on programs such as Good Morning America, Top Chef: New York and The Colbert Report. They have also performed for Pope John Paul II and Presidents Obama and Carter.
Every year, the choir does a world-wide tour, and one of their stops this year happened to be in the Scruffy City.
The Campus Events Board’s (CEB) Arts and Culture Committee, along with the Center for Student Engagement, hosted the choir’s concert and as concert-goers arrived at the Student Union, they were greeted happily by CEB members.
Inside the Student Union auditorium, the crowd waited with uncertainty for the concert to begin. Most in the room had never heard music from the Harlem Gospel Choir and were not sure what to expect.
One student in attendance however, Caroline Benton, said she has been listening to the Harlem Gospel Choir for years.
“I found out about the concert from the Vol Life app,” Benton said while waiting for the concert to start.
She said she decided to attend because she loves choral music and has been a longtime fan of the Harlem Gospel Choir.
“I’ve been listening to them for about four or five years now,” Benton said. “I know they’re a good choir.”
As the concert began and the choir members energetically came on stage and took their places, the auditorium was polarized. The energy was electrified as the choir belted out their signature gospel tunes.
Crowd interaction was a huge part of the show. The choir brought audience members on stage multiple times, challenging them to sing along with the music. Each time, the students on stage impressed the audience and themselves with the capabilities of their own voices.
Another integral part of the show was bringing the crowd to its feet and having them clap along to the beat. While also creating a sense of community amongst the audience members, being involved in the show kept the audience captivated and kept their eyes and ears on the choir.
By intermission the crowd was lively and excited, discussing how incredible the show had been so far with each other.
Three audience members had nothing but positive things to say about the concert. Spencer Howell, the executive chair for CEB’s entertainment committee, was very impressed by the show.
“I think it’s great, very high energy,” Spencer Howell said. “It’s the epitome of gospel music. It’s really cool.”
Another student, Payton Krumholz, noted that the performance gave UT students a glimpse into a different culture.
“It brings a culture on campus that some students haven’t experienced,” Krumholz said.
During the performance, one of the leaders of the choir mentioned the philanthropy the group participates in. They have partnered with Operation Smile, a charity helping kids with a cleft lip or cleft palate. At each performance, the choir sells bracelets, and 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to Operation Smile.
In between dancing and clapping, jumping on stage and singing, the audience seemed to genuinely enjoyed the performance.
For more information on the Harlem Gospel Choir, their upcoming shows and their partnership with Operation Smile, visit http://www.harlemgospelchoir.com/.