Glorious Gospel

“Good evening!” roared the audience members as Dean of CAMD Bobby Edwards greeted them. “That’s the idea,” he chuckled. Last Saturday, May 8, Phillips Academy hosted a Gospelfest featuring the New England Gospel Ensemble, Just 4 Praise, the Boston Community Choir, and Andover’s own Gospel Choir. All proceeds from the evening helped to raise money for the Sojourner Truth Scholarship Fund, a program instituted with “hopes that funding will be available to support a full scholarship for a boarding student of color.” The event featured two solos by Andover faculty members Edwards and Instructor of History James Rodgers. Edwards inspired much cheering and applause, as he warbled, “Living will not be in vain!” in his warm tenor timbre. After the song had come to a close, he dedicated his performance to a trustee of Phillips Academy who had passed away: “His life was not in vain,” Mr. Edwards stated. The audience agreed with much applause. Rodgers performed solos later in the program, beginning quietly and slowly building to a climax, where he dedicated his whole being to the music. Congratulated with a standing ovation, it was clear that he would be sorely missed upon his retirement, which will take effedt at the conclusion of this academic year. As for the guest choirs featured in the program, the New England Gospel Ensemble, directed and accompanied by James Early, was without a doubt a rousing success. Their a capella rendition of “Did my lord deliver David?” was one of the most memorable pieces of the evening. Early seemed to be improvising the song, gesturing each part on a whim, and it was amazing to see them perform a piece that they had “not rehearsed” but wanted to share after they had seen the receptive audience here at Andover. Just 4 Praise, a small ensemble of eight or nine performers, was led byJerome Kyles. The highlight of their performance was a soloist whose booming alto voice filled the Chapel. She was an enormous presence on stage and seemed ecstatic to share her energy with the audience. Finally, the Boston Community Choir closed the evening’s festival with gospel renditions of traditional songs. Dressed in royal blue robes, they were an impressive sight and featured a larger instrumental accompaniment than the other ensembles. Like the performances before, the audience rose in appreciation of the singers and their music. Despite the pressure of three remarkable choirs in their midst, the Phillips Academy Gospel Choir was not to be outdone. Their program included “Praise Him,” a trio by Aba Temeng ’06, Akosua Oforiwaa-Ayim ’07, and Julianne Fitzpatrick ’05, and solo by James Mendez Hodes ’04 backed by the enthusiastic spirit of the choir. Mendez Hodes’s dancing was equally entertaining throughout “My God is an awesome God,” a number that brought an audience of professional singers to their feet. In short, the Gospelfest was a great success and featured soulful performances from all its participants. Sojourner Truth herself would have been proud to see the legacy she left behind.