COLUMBIA - There are school choirs, church choirs, and mixed choirs, but now there is the opportunity to join a community choir.
“There’s never ever been a gospel choir that is community oriented,” said Lamont Walker, creator and director of the Columbia Community Gospel Choir. “Sometimes you’ll have gospel choirs that are born from like churches, different churches or different organizations, but our gospel choir is made up of people from several different backgrounds. You have different denominations, you have different races, different social classes. You’ve got people that are married people. They are single people, there’s a widow, people with kids. You have people in college, you have high schoolers that are a part of this gospel choir.”
Lamont Minor, piano player and singer in the choir, said the diversity of the choir what he likes best.
“My favorite part is being able to see different cultures, different ethnicities, different backgrounds come together and project this beautiful sound. That’s amazing to me,” Minor said.
The choir is composed of about 150 members. Due to the diversity of the choir and religious beliefs, the choir sings mostly inspirational music and only a few faith-based songs.
“We did it like that on purpose so that it would be strictly community oriented, and in the community, you have all of that,” Walker said.
The first performance was in January of 2016. He began forming the choir in the the fall of 2015, during the hunger strike at MU when racial tensions were evident, in hopes of bringing people together through two things almost everyone can relate to.
“At some point in everybody’s life, everybody understands something about music,” Minor said.
“Everybody lives in the community, and that’s what’s most important. Because what we wanted to do is make an impact on the community to spread unity in the community,” Walker said.
CCGC is an entity under the Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri.
Emily Edgington-Andrews, Choral Arts Alliance artistic director and soprano in the choir, said the choir has exceeded her expectations.
“I, along with another board member, had an idea for a type of a concert where we brought different art forms together— specifically the gospel tradition with the Western European Choral tradition. I had a good friend who introduced me to Lamont and from there, the idea kind of came together,” Edgington said. “It’s 100 percent more than what we thought it would be. It’s really some of the most beautiful, enriching experiences. Not just the concert, the rehearsals, coming together, everybody from all walks of life.”
Emily Allison, Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri Board of Directors member and soprano in choir, said, “I love the people and the connections you make. So getting to make music together as a group is so special because it’s just a togetherness and cooperation in a world where a lot of times you’re on your own and doing your own thing.”
Alex Plumber, tenor in the choir, said, “It’s not only the joy in the participants' faces, but I really love seeing the joy on the audiences' faces. I see growth in the community when they come and experience the concerts. The first year they were kind of like, ‘ok what’s going on?’ Now they come with an expectancy and they don’t just sit there, now they join in with you.”
“This thing is already big, it’s already big and I would like to see more participants because as a musician, seeing people that don’t normally sing, come in and actually sing and learn songs and learn notes, that’s amazing to me,” Minor said.
The choir is now extending an invitation to the community.
“We want it to be open to everybody. Whosoever will, let them come be a part of this gospel choir,” Walker said.
Formal rehearsals will resume on December 12.
The choir is considering adding more events in addition to the annual concert.
“What we’re doing right now is once a year to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful teachings, so we do a big concert then,” Edgington said.
The 3rd annual Columbia Community Gospel Choir concert will be 7p.m. on January 20, 2018 at First Presbyterian church.