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Preview: UO Gospel Singers to celebrate MLK Day in Beall Concert Hall

Every Tuesday and Thursday night, a small yet diverse group of students trickle into Gospel Singers rehearsal. Bags are pushed under chairs to a soundtrack of improvised piano and excited chatter. At 6 p.m. sharp, director and University of Oregon alumnus Andiel Brown takes his place at the front of the room.

This isn’t your average choir rehearsal, however. The singers hold no music, and there is no harsh metronome keeping the beat. Rather, singers step energetically from side to side, and vocalize freely under their breath between numbers. They belt in harmony, questioning: “Will there be a settlement between the nations, and it end in peace? World, are you about to end?” The attitude is relaxed, but the message is clear: through music, the UO Gospel Singers have something important to say.

The UO Gospel Singers are an elite, auditioned ensemble who perform at the local, national and international levels. In 2013, they were the first gospel group to tour and perform in China. Under Brown’s direction, this ensemble, along with the UO Gospel Choir and Gospel Ensemble, has established a strong tradition of excellence at the university.

This Thursday was the UO Gospel Singers’ last regular rehearsal before their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration performance on Monday, Jan. 19. They certainly worked hard, but perfection was not the focus. It was clear throughout the rehearsal that the message of the music and the energy of the choir are more than enough to blow any audience away. Brown took the lead on Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” while the rest of the choir quickly learned and backed him up with energetic vocals. Each song that followed echoed the same message of positivity, hope and a need for change. Singers from just about every walk of life clapped their hands and exuded raw emotion.

For a lot of students, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is simply an excuse to leave campus for the long weekend, or a chance to catch up on all that reading we didn’t do during syllabus week. This performance, however, will highlight the ideas behind the holiday: the message that Dr. King represents. Aside from “Man in the Mirror,” and other pieces from the Gospel Singers’ repertoire, Monday’s program will feature special guest artists that “showcase the cultural contributions of Afro-Cuban folkloric song, dance and percussion.” Monday is a good a time as ever to experience this oft-ignored artistic culture. This afternoon of music will be uplifting, powerful and totally worthwhile.

The UO Gospel Singers Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration is Monday, Jan. 15 at Beall Concert Hall. The event is at 3 p.m. and admission is free. More information can be found at the U of O events web page


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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.