BGSU Gospel Choir unites voices in songs of praise


BOWLING GREEN, O.—The 1970s was a big decade for Bowling Green State University. In 1971, a parking permit for students cost only $15. In 1972, Darrow Hall became the first co-ed dorm at BGSU, with men and women assigned to alternate floors. And in 1975, Aerosmith performed on campus.  

This all might seem like just a distant memory, but one organization to come out of that era is still as fresh as the year it began. The BGSU Gospel Choir started in 1970 and has been going strong ever since.

The choir is hosting its 10th annual Gospel Fest for two nights this week in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. To mark the milestone, special guests and alumni will join the BGSU choir for performances on Friday, Jan. 11, and Saturday, Jan. 12.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday with College Night, when all of the participating university gospel choirs from across the state will perform.

The following morning, the over 200 students who performed Friday will come together to create a workshop choir. “I still stay in contact with the friends I made from different universities,” Gospel Choir President Rebecca Shakespeare said.

The university students will showcase their new songs at the Saturday show, starting at 6:30 p.m. during the Night of Worship. The three national recording artists, high school choirs and special groups from all across the country will also perform.

Single night tickets are $7 for students and alumni and $11 for the general public. Tickets for both nights’ performances are $11 for students and alumni and $15 for the public. They are available at the Information Desk, which is located on the first floor of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

“Our objective is to use our many voices and talents to share the soulful sounds of gospel music with those in the Bowling Green and Toledo area,” according to the choir.

Among those joining the BGSU choir will be performing artists Amante Lacey, Jonathan McReynolds and KJ Scriven, the Dayton Faith School of Praise Dance, and college Gospel Choirs from Akron University, Cedarville University, Ohio University, Ohio State University and Wright State University.

“We definitely had to take it to the next level,” said Ashley Lewis, vice president of the Gospel Choir and coordinator of the event.

Last April, Lewis and the festival’s committee came together to discuss how to make this year’s student-run event special to mark its 10th anniversary. They wanted to include alumni to preserve tradition; hence, the slogan for this year’s Gospel Fest: “The Blood Still Works.”

And the alumni are enthusiastic to help. Lewis has reached out to them to get their input and advice on how to make the event successful, and many will attend the weekend’s festivities.

“It is exciting, but it takes a lot of work, time and attention,” Shakespeare said. College Night is her favorite part of the two-day festival. “We get to see other schools do what we love to do, which is singing,” she said.

In order to make the 10th annual Gospel Fest a big one, the choir had to do lots of fundraising. The group sold ESPN subscriptions, held bake sales and hosted a fall concert in December. They also scored sponsorships from BGSU’s University Activities Organization and Office of Multicultural Affairs, plus Coca-Cola, Hampton Inn and Suites and the Enclave apartment complex, and received multiple church donations.

Singing in the Gospel Choir is a powerful experience, say its members. Ashley Edwards, a senior majoring in film studies and Gospel Fest publicity chair, said she found strength and rededication to her studies and her faith through being surrounded and supported by peers who understand the challenges she faces. “I encourage everyone to come to this beautiful event that has changed lives for more than 10 years,” she said.

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(Posted January 09, 2013 )