One by one, singers across an auditorium joined in singing “Imagine” by John Lennon. This performance took place last Saturday at Gospelfest, a conference focused solely on gospel music for independent schools in the Massachusetts area.
During the conference, which was held at Brimmer and May School in Newton, Ma., singers learn about the history of gospel music as well as new songs and techniques from professionals. Over half of Andover’s Gospel Choir participated in the day of gospel music.
“My favorite part was like learning the history [of gospel music] because I sing often, and I had some ideas about how gospel music was founded. It’s a music that was born out of resistance, especially during slavery times in the form of Negro spirituals and resisting against oppressors in the United States,” said Breyanna Watson ’18, a co-head of Gospel Choir.
Watson continued, “No matter what, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and you’re singing about hope. When we sing, we’re also connecting with people of the past and realizing that there are a lot of people who came before us so that we could be where we are right now.”
According to Daniel James ’18, Gospel Choir’s other co-head, the day gave him an opportunity to learn from different teachers and professionals.
“[I enjoyed] being able to see people with so much experience [and] be successful at spreading gospel music, and also seeing so many different independent schools that have these established organizations and learning from them,” said James.
While gospel music is a symbol of resistance, it is also representative of hope for a better future. Watson said that for her, the music is a part of an identity and heritage and also a fun, novel pastime.
“We are all connected and singing about happiness and hope for a better future, so I think that one thing I learned is that even when you’re going through some kind of struggles, being able to like sit down and to listen to music or sing it yourself is a way where you can find inner peace,” said Watson.
While they will not be at Andover next year, the James and Watson said they hope that more students will attend Gospelfest in the future, whether they are gospel music veterans or just interested in singing a new style.
“I’m hoping next year we can have Gospelfest here on campus, and that is the goal. If we were to go, that would also be a great experience, but I think that [Andover] has yet to host Gospelfest. I think it would be a great experience for Chorus and [The Fidelio Society] and all the groups that are not gospel choirs to be able to also engage in this and be a part of it. [I hope] that we can come together and show others just how great the organization that we have here is,” said James.