Feel the spirit: Love saturates concert hall

Black Voices' Spring Concert
Old Cabell Hall
Saturday, April 24

I was raised in the church. Three days a week my family attended. There was Bible study, choir practice, and Sunday service. I was never very keen on going, but I must say I do have some great memories. Every once and a while, during service or choir practice, something magical happened.

I've witnessed it with my own eyes and ears: the coming together of a group of people to sing, and hearing even the most tone deaf individuals hit perfect notes in unison. On those days, you can feel deep in your chest the energy being shared by everyone in the room. At times it was so overwhelming I felt like crying tears of joy. Call it what you want, I just tell it how it is.

It's been a while since I've felt that same feeling. Wisps of it come in waves of nostalgia whenever I hear gospel music on the radio, or from a church as I drive by on Sundays. Recently, the urge to recapture the energy that the music creates became so intense that I had to go see a little. When I attended the Black Voice Spring Concert at Old Cabell Hall, I got more than just a little gospel

I got a lot of great celebration.

From the door, everyone was smiles and hospitality. It was like entering the house of family you didn't know you had. I chose a seat next to an older woman who put her hand on my back as I sat down as a way of gesturing me to get comfortable.

The massive choir was already singing, dancing, and letting out yelps of excitement. When the sopranos sang, the tenors and altos would cheer them on as people in the audience chimed in with their seals of approval. The altos, too, received praise during their moments in the limelight. The tenors brought the most response and energy as they sang their parts with hands in the air and smiles so large they seemed to wrap clear to the back of their heads.

In between numbers, individual members of the choir gave testimonials about what being in Black Voices meant to them. At times it was sappy (I have low tolerance for that sort of thing), but no one used the opportunity to hog the stage. It was an afternoon of togetherness, and you had to be an alien or a devil worshipper not to feel the unconditional love and joy suffusing the room.

Between sets an intermission featured the Black Voices step team. They wore themselves out with a 15-minute routine that had everyone thoroughly entertained. The choir came back on decked out in white t-shirts and jeans (for the first set, everyone wore choir robes).

The song selection started slowly with a few mellow tunes featuring pretty impressive solo work. That was all a build-up to the final medley, where the director invited any Black Voices alumni to come from the audience and join in. What a truly incredible way to end a show!

As I left Cabell Hall and walked down to the Corner, I saw the mob of people returning from a hard day of partying at Foxfield. I couldn't help but think that the real party had been at Cabell Hall, and the hangover it served up would be much more pleasant the next morning.

Black Voices
photo by Damani Harrison